What Sweden Teaches Us About ObamaCare

April 24, 2014

The United States can look to Sweden for a preview of America's health care future, says Per Bylund, a professor at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University.

Sweden is routinely praised as an example of a successful socialist country, but its health care industry suggests something else entirely. While Sweden's universal health care system is consistently ranked as one of the best quality-wise, the country has an access problem.

  • Swedish patients face incredibly long wait times simply to get an appointment with a doctor, even having to wait for emergency care. Certain procedures have multiyear wait times, and treatment is sometimes denied altogether.
  • As of 2013, Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare reported that the average wait time from initial referral to start of treatment for "intermediary and high risk" prostate cancer was an incredible 220 days.
  • One 80-year-old Swedish woman recently had to wait four hours before an ambulance arrived. And no ambulance at all came to a one-month-old infant who suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.

This rationing is due to the gap between the number of people seeking care and the capabilities of health care providers -- and the United States can expect to see the same results thanks to ObamaCare.

Free markets lead to innovation, as companies and entrepreneurs respond to demand and find ways to offer better products at better prices. Decentralization is the key to an effective free market. But ObamaCare does the opposite.

Swedish patients are routinely denied care because of their government's policies, which is why many Swedes -- despite the guarantee of free public care -- have flocked to private insurance coverage over the last 20 years.

  • In the last five years, the number of private policyholders in Sweden has increased by 67 percent.
  • Notably, these private insurance enrollments have increased despite the fact that the average Swedish family already pays $20,000 annually in taxes toward health care and elderly care.

Bylund, a citizen of Sweden who has lived there for most of his life, says that the only way to have affordable, high-quality and accessible health care is in a system that allows real competition between health care providers.

Source: Per Bylund, "What Sweden Can Teach Us About ObamaCare," Wall Street Journal, April 17, 2014.

 

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