Why Michael Moore has a point about Swedish Healthcare

Privatizing “Public Healthcare”, or clearing obstacles to allow it to be partially privatized has always been controversial. Now that the current Swedish government seem to be walking down the privatization path, it’s no surprise its actions have people running for positions. What is surprising is that some of the attention comes in the form of a public statement from none other than Michael Moore, the filmmaker.

Speaking to the Swedish news agency TT Spektra at the Cannes Film Festival, Moore said “I am very sorry to hear that they are selling out public healthcare. Everything that is good about public healthcare has its origins in Scandinavia.” He continued by saying “If you sell out the healthcare system in Sweden, you attack the core of everything that has to do with free healthcare.” Moore also added that he thought the current right-center government constellation would be voted out of office at the next general elections.

Obviously this caused somewhat of an outrage from some politicians, claiming Moore didn’t understand what the government was trying to accomplish, or that he was lacking basic understanding of the Swedish system.

I personally think Michael Moore has a valid point, but he also fails to understand one of the basic problems with the public healthcare system in Sweden.

Yes, we pay a lot of taxes; yes, we have quite high living standards, and yes we should be proud of having what appears to be functional public healthcare. If it was as functional as the cost of it might indicate, I’d be as happy as a pig in mud. The problem with the current system is that some people are so busy pointing out how well it works, that very few are interested in figuring out what isn’t working. It’s an extremely inefficient system where a lot of money is wasted on administration instead of providing care. One could argue that the administration is part of the care that the system should provide, and I agree. It should not, however, be as unbalanced as it is now.

In Sweden, we have a tendency to feel happy with something just because it isn’t the worst possible imaginable. In other words, it’s OK to stop running for gold if you are in a runner-up position, as long as you leave a few runners behind you. This “at least we tried” mentality works when you have exhausted all possible solutions and all available resources, but it’s not OK when the only thing you’ve tried is the same “solution” over and over again.

The problem, IMHO, with our current healthcare system is that we have never broken it down into tiny pieces and put them back together again, leaving the non-functional bits out of the reconstruction. Sure, there have been local attempts at this, but the big picture is “throw more money at it, and the problem will go away”. Here’s something that may come as a surprise for non-thinkers: no, it won’t. We have hospitals with incompatible patient journal systems, and they have been talking about consolidating these systems for the past 20 years. We have emergency rooms filled with people with common colds, why are they even allowed to come close to primary care when they could be handled in 15 minutes and some aspirin? We have overstaffing in some areas (where more people than necessary are assigned to simple tasks), and we have understaffing in other areas. We have poor efficiency in how very advanced equipment is being used, and so on and so on.

In other words, we have problems that would bring down any company in no time, had the system been run as a company.

Yes, I want my children to enjoy free or inexpensive healthcare at all levels; free in this context means tax-funded. Yes, I want myself and those around me to enjoy good care when I can no longer handle things by myself. Yes, I want people who need help to get help.

But I do not want to see a huge portion of my tax money being spent on pure stupidity, there’s enough of that going on as it is.

Michael Moore has a point, but we need to reconstruct this ship before all the fat and mentally disconnected politicians at the bow sink our efforts into the tax swamp.

More links of (perhaps) interest:
  Michael Moore Rips Swedish Health Care, and Swedish MPs Rip Moore
  The Local: Michael Moore attacks Sweden’s healthcare reforms

Why smartphones aren’t clever

On Wikipedia, and from other similar sources, one can read something to the effect of

A smartphone is a full-featured mobile phone with personal computer like functionality. Most smartphones are camera phones that support full featured email capabilities with the functionality of a complete personal organizer. An important feature of most smartphones is that applications for enhanced data processing and connectivity can be installed on the device, by contrast to regular phones which support sandboxed applications. These applications may be developed by the manufacturer of the device, by the operator or by any other third-party software developer. “Smart” functionality includes any additional interface including a miniature QWERTY keyboard, a touch screen, or even just secure access to company mail, such as is provided by a BlackBerry

Today, I had the questionable privilege of witnessing two very modern "smartphones" being unable to complete the simplest of tasks. My wife is evaluating a HTC S710. Before she can really use it, she has to move contacts, calendar entries, etc. from her current Sony Ericsson P990i. The usefulness of a common SIM-card standard is long gone, but there are a number of other ways of doing this. Some involve bridging the gap with Outlook, others by means of using some sort of synchronizer. If you don’t have a zillion entries, BT-zapping (using Bluetooth to transfer one or more entries from one device to the other) seems like a logical path.

Only, transferring more than one entry at a time fails miserably. The HTC cannot receive multiple records/entries. If this is a failure on HTC’s part or the fault of SonyEricsson’s P990i, I don’t know; and I don’t care. What gets me is that these two “smartphones” are very recent. The HTC S710 is the company’s first Windows Mobile 6.0 smartphone (and they decided not to 3G it, yay).

The manufacturers and network providers talk the talk, but they sure as hell don’t walk the walk. How can something as simple as transferring multiple contact records from one phone to another, using a “standardized protocol” (let’s not be too picky) cause problems for two such “professional” products? This has me timewarped back to the days of Xmodem/CRC and Xmodem/Checksum problems (“You know you can alwas rely on the simplest of the protocols like Xmodem if everything else fails”).

It’s time these manufacturers get their head out of whatever hole they’ve got it stuck in, get seated around a huge round table, and sort this out. There are no excuses for this. For this “one world”, “one connection”, “one people” bullshit to work, we need to have devices that can communicate with each other using some form of lowest common denominator when everything fails. The SIM card stopped being that for mobile phones a long time ago. Wake up and smell the maple nut crunch!

** What we’ve got here is…failure to communicate **