Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP ,MACE
On 12/7/2019 the Times published an article by Anu Partanen and Trevor Corson
entitled “Finland is a Capitalist Paradise.”
The media is the message. The article will resonate with many young couples trying to live a happy life in New York City.
The article also resonates with Bernie Sanders’ primary message.
Bernie: “Take a look at what Finland, the happiest country in the world, is doing. If Finland can provide everyone with health care, send everyone to college for free and provide affordable childcare, why can’t the US?”
The problem is the message is false.
“Two years ago, we were living in a pleasant neighborhood in Brooklyn. We were experienced professionals, enjoying a privileged life.
We’d just had a baby. She was our first, and much wanted. We were United States citizens and our future as a family should have seemed bright. But we felt deeply insecure and anxious.”
There is no dispute with that statement. The college debt burden could be added to that feeling of insecurity.
“Our income was trickling in unreliably from temporary gigs as independent contractors. Our access to health insurance was a constant source of anxiety, as we scrambled year after year among private employer plans, exorbitant plans for freelancers, and complicated and expensive Obamacare plans.
Obamacare was supposed to solve the healthcare insurance problem for this young couple. Obamacare hasn’t solved the problem because of its faulty construction, its top-heavy government bureaucracy and its inefficient administration.
“With a child, we’d soon face overwhelming day-care costs. Never mind the bankruptcy-sized bills for education ahead, whether for housing in a good public-school district or for private-school tuition. And then there’d be college. In other words, we suffered from the same stressors that are swamping more and more of Americans, even the relatively privileged.
“As we contemplated all this, one of us, Anu, was offered a job back in her hometown: Helsinki, Finland.”
As usual, the New York Times could not help taking a shot at President Trump’s philosophy when they said,
“Finland, of course, is one of those Nordic countries that we hear some Americans, including President Trump, describe as unsustainable and oppressive — “socialist nanny states.”
It turns out President Trump is right.
The couple moved to Finland from Brooklyn. The evidence they used to make their decision was all hearsay from friends and family living in the United States.
Their impression, after living in Helsinki for over a year, sounds like Utopia.
“We’ve now been living in Finland for more than a year. The difference between our lives here and in the States has been tremendous, but perhaps not in the way many Americans might imagine.”
“What we’ve experienced is an increase in personal freedom. Our lives are just much more manageable. To be sure, our days are still full of challenges — raising a child, helping elderly parents, juggling the demands of daily logistics and work.”
The authors do not describe the meaning of personal freedom.
“But in Finland, we are automatically covered, no matter what, by taxpayer-funded universal health care that equals the United States’ in quality (despite the misleading claims you hear to the contrary), all without piles of confusing paperwork or haggling over huge bills.
This assertion has been disputed by many physicians and people living in Finland. https://www.ess.fi/uutiset/kotimaa/2015/07/30/terveyskeskuslaakarille-voi-paasta-nyt-tai-kuukauden-kuluttua—katso-oman-kuntasi-tilanne
Is this true? What is really happening in Finland?
If you are not sick and do not need the Finnish healthcare system, you will feel very secure. However, if you need to use the healthcare system it is not so good.
Why the New York Times, along with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, does not tell us the truth about Finland is obvious. The truth does not fit their agenda.
Finland has more doctors per capita than the UK but, at the level of primary care, a far higher proportion of these physicians are in private practice than is the case in Britain.
Seventeen percent (17%) of Finnish doctors work solely in the private sector. Most of these physicians are general practitioners. This is twice the percentage of physicians that were in the private sector twenty years ago.
An additional twenty percent of physicians work in both the private sector as well as the public sector.
The bizarre thing is most employers in Finland pay for their workers to have private primary healthcare. Employers do not pay for their employees’ families. The families remain in the public sector.
The public sector is far from free. A visit to a family practitioner cost 16.10 euros. However, patients only pay for the first three visits and then it is free.
According to a Dr. Saarinen of Ula “the more experienced and “better” doctors end up in the private sector, leaving the “inexperienced” and “inefficient” doctors running the health centers.”
Private practitioners are better paid and work under less pressure than public practitioners.
“A hospital consultation in the public sector costs patients about €38, and you pay for each night that you spend in hospital, up to a maximum of €679.”
The free healthcare service in Finland is not really free. Municipalities pay for the free service. The result is service in poorer areas of the country tend to have bad health service and limited access to medical care.
Private GPs usually set up practices in more affluent areas where they are more likely to get paid.
It looks like a grim socialized medical system. No wonder Finns deny the finding they are the happiest people in the world.
“In Helsinki there are reports of huge queues at health centres (GP surgeries), waits for appointments of many weeks, and greater and greater demands with less and less funding. In south-eastern Finland it takes about a month to see a GP. Back in December 2013, it was reported that Finns were increasingly using private doctors in neighbouring Estonia to save time and money.”
Dr. Saarinen explains that the system essentially forces people to go private or rely on friends who are doctors.
Finland’s healthcare system has been a mess for at least two decades.
The couple writing this article are ignoring the facts. They said:
“Our child attends a fabulous, highly professional and ethnically diverse public day-care center that amazes us with its enrichment activities and professionalism. The price? About $300 a month — the maximum for public daycare, because in Finland day-care fees are subsidized for all families.
And if we stay here, our daughter will be able to attend one of the world’s best K-12 education systems at no cost to us, regardless of the neighborhood we live in. The college would also be tuition-free. If we have another child, we will automatically get paid parental leave, funded largely through taxes, for nearly a year, which can be shared between parents. Annual paid vacations here of four, five or even six weeks are also the norm.”
Nothing is free!
The New York Times reported on a UN study proving Finland is the happiest country in the world. The problem is the Finns do not think the study is accurate. The Finns claim that the study was poorly designed and inaccurate.
The New York Times has once again printed fake news story to influence readers to believe in the wisdom of “Medicare for All.”
Bernie Sanders, has long been touting Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway as the shining examples of socialism and socialized medicine.
“Take a look at what Finland, the happiest country in the world, is doing. If Finland can provide everyone with health care, send everyone to college for free and provide affordable child care, why can’t the US?”
Carl Sandberg said, in “The Prairie Years”, “If you tell a lie enough times it becomes the truth.
The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone.
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