Monday, February 18, 2008

Lines For Swedish Care Grow Longer

The February 4, 2008 edition of Investors Business Daily notes that rationing and waiting times continue to worsen in Sweden's system of socialized medicine. Here are some excerpts:
Waiting times for care, long a problem in Sweden and too often deadly wherever they're found, are now the longest on the Continent, says European think tank Health Consumer Powerhouse.

...Long waits are a hallmark of government health care anywhere it's employed. When the perception exists that treatment is free (it is not; Swedes pay more than half their gross income in taxes to support the welfare state), system overuse is inevitable. People can think of no reason to self-ration care. They show up in emergency rooms and doctor's offices with conditions for which they wouldn't seek treatment if they paid directly at the time of service.

Swedes are accustomed to cradle-to-grave care provided by the state. But rather than deal with long waits, they're opting for private care, which got a boost from limited reform in the 1990s. In private care, patients self-regulate and put less stress on the system.

Thanks to the profit motive, private health care providers have an incentive to cut waiting times, lest they lose customers to the competition. Government providers have no such motivation.

They do have incentive, however, to ration care when demand gets too high and costs soar. But to do so exposes "universal access" and "equal access" to be inaccurate descriptions. "Restricted access" would be more fitting.