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