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Socialized Medicine in Sweden: Same Bad Medicine

j0401561When Americans examine socialized medicine and government health care systems, the two systems most frequently mentioned are the ones in Great Britain and Canada.  They are, after all, English speaking countries and their societies are the most like ours here in the United States.

Much to the chagrin of socialists, the evidence has gotten out that the British and Canadian government health care systems are massively expensive (despite being “free”) to the taxpayer, bloated, and inefficient.  Their waiting lists of months to years are fast becoming famous.

I lived under the British National Health Service for three years.  I’ve seen it up close and I’ve been forced to use it.  I also have Canadian friends who have told me about their system, and I’ve seen how they react to it.  It isn’t good. 

But another socialist nation often proffered as a successful example–though usually without a lot of strong conviction–is Sweden.

So how does Swedish socialized medicine hold up?  Apparently about as well as socialism anywhere else: poorly.

According to the National Center for Policy Analysis and  Sven R. Larson in “Lesson from Sweden’s Universal Health System: Tales from the Health-care Crypt,” published in the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons (Spring 2008), they have the same problems with waiting lists, rationed care, and retarded innovation seen in Canada and the UK

  • One Gothenburg multiple sclerosis patient was prescribed a new drug but his doctor’s request was denied because the drug was 33 percent more expensive than the older medicine; he then offered to pay for the medicine himself but was prevented from doing so because the bureaucrats said it would set a bad precedent and lead to unequal access to medicine.
  • Malmo, with its 280,000 residents, is Sweden’s third-largest city to see a physician, a patient must go to one of two local clinics before they can see a specialist; the clinics have security guards to keep patients from getting unruly as they wait hours to see a doctor and the guards also prevent new patients from entering the clinic when the waiting room is considered full.
  • Uppsala, a city with 200,000 people, has only one specialist in mammography; Sweden’s National Cancer Foundation reports that in a few years most Swedish women will not have access to mammography.
     

Economist Walter Williams also examined the Swedish government health care system, along with in a recent column.

Mr. D., a Gothenburg multiple sclerosis patient, was prescribed a new drug. His doctor’s request was denied because the drug was 33 percent more expensive than the older medicine. Mr. D. offered to pay for the medicine himself but was prevented from doing so. The bureaucrats said it would set a bad precedent and lead to unequal access to medicine.

Malmo, with its 280,000 residents, is Sweden’s third-largest city. To see a physician, a patient must go to one of two local clinics before they can see a specialist. The clinics have security guards to keep patients from getting unruly as they wait hours to see a doctor. The guards also prevent new patients from entering the clinic when the waiting room is considered full. Uppsala, a city with 200,000 people, has only one specialist in mammography. Sweden’s National Cancer Foundation reports that in a few years most Swedish women will not have access to mammography.

Dr. Olle Stendahl, a professor of medicine at Linkoping University, pointed out a side effect of government-run medicine: its impact on innovation. He said, “In our budget-government health care there is no room for curious, young physicians and other professionals to challenge established views. New knowledge is not attractive but typically considered a problem (that brings) increased costs and disturbances in today’s slimmed-down health care.”

He also re-examined much of what we already know of the British and Canadian systems 

The head of the World Health Organization calculated that Britain has as many as 25,000 unnecessary cancer deaths a year because of under-provision of care. Twelve percent of specialists surveyed admitted refusing kidney dialysis to patients suffering from kidney failure because of limits on cash. Waiting lists for medical treatment have become so long that there are now “waiting lists” for the waiting list.

Canada’s government system isn’t that different from Britain’s. For example, after a Canadian has been referred to a specialist, the waiting list for gynecological surgery is four to 12 weeks, cataract removal 12 to 18 weeks, tonsillectomy three to 36 weeks and neurosurgery five to 30 weeks. Toronto-area hospitals, concerned about lawsuits, ask patients to sign a legal release accepting that while delays in treatment may jeopardize their health, they nevertheless hold the hospital blameless.

Our system here in the United States is far from perfect, but we would be insane to go from the frying pan into the fire by moving forward in the direction of socialized medicine.

Indeed, many of the problems we have are due to government involvement in health care. Through programs like Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP and others, more than half the money being spent on health care comes from the federal government.  And their regulatory control and interference in the health care industry is already egregious.

Unfortunately our new socialist government in Washington D.C. is bent on subjecting Americans to this terrible system.

Americans must do everything they can to prevent our government from forcing government health care on us.  “Free” health care is very costly.


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8 Responses to “Socialized Medicine in Sweden: Same Bad Medicine”

  1. When health care is free for consumers, demand increases. Doctors and drug companies stop producing since the government won't let them make a profit. Since the government is the single-payer, then the only way to stop the shortage is to ration medical services, often based on leftist victim ideology. Socialists don't trust you to make your own decisions about what to do with your earned income or your health care.

    In Canada, you can't even buy your own drugs and treatment, even if the government puts you on a waiting list or won't pay at all. Private purchasing of health care and drugs is illegal in Canada.

    Except for Quebec, oddly enough, because of a recent court decision.

    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=6378

    The problem with a system in which low-risk producers pay for the services, but don't use them while high-risk victims use the services, but don't pay for them is that there is no incentive for people to be healthy. As people act more and more unhealthily, since the rich will pay their health care bills, the government steps in and starts controlling their lives.

    Socialized medicine redistributes wealth in order to equalize the outcomes of good lifestyle choices and poor lifestyle choices. The more lifestyle choices are equalized, the less personal responsibility there is amongst the citizens. Eventually, the government takes control of people's lives to reduce costs.

    This article shows how it's happening in Canada, as they try to ban trans fats:
    http://www.calgaryherald.com/Health/want+trans+

    <quote>A mammoth government program is a poor excuse for further encroachment on people's lives–maybe fewer government entitlements would encourage smarter and healthier habits. If the ban is the sword of the nanny-state crusader, surely the health-care system represents his shield.</quote>

  2. Exactly right and very well said, Wintery Knight. The take-over of health care wiil be an irreparable leap into socialism and the end of America's lead in medical innovation. Americans will learn eventually that “free” health care will be neither free, nor healthy nor caring.

  3. Interesting, yet Sweden has the second LOWEST infant mortality rate…. I guess somethings just don't add up do they? Or do they?

  4. Yes it IS interesting. The question is: why? Is it attributable to their system of socialized medicine? Is it a consequence of differences in lifestyle between Sweden and the States (e.g. healthy foods versus junk food, exercise, etc.).

    And if they get caught in one of the long waiting lists for treatment when they get older, that difference may be curtailed.

  5. Goi to Sweden and see if your “poor lifwstyle choices ” are prevalent there. Then go to white trash land, black ghetto land and see some real bad life style choices.
    You right wingers are just mirror image socialists. You see the presence or lack of presence of agovernement in an area as decisive, What is decisive is the cultural level of the population. The Swedes will not be seduced by bad lifestyle choices half as much as Americans, whether or not their medicien is socialised/ They are just socially more responsible. I speak as a brit and freely admit the Scandos are more socially responsible than we are too..
    Respect toAmerica for its innovation. A great nation in many ways but ease up on your phobia of government.

  6. Goi to Sweden and see if your “poor lifwstyle choices ” are prevalent there. Then go to white trash land, black ghetto land and see some real bad life style choices.
    You right wingers are just mirror image socialists. You see the presence or lack of presence of agovernement in an area as decisive, What is decisive is the cultural level of the population. The Swedes will not be seduced by bad lifestyle choices half as much as Americans, whether or not their medicien is socialised/ They are just socially more responsible. I speak as a brit and freely admit the Scandos are more socially responsible than we are too..
    Respect toAmerica for its innovation. A great nation in many ways but ease up on your phobia of government.