All over the world, governments approach their social responsibilities from a wide range of perspectives. For instance, for many industrialized nations, health care is taken to be an example of a social program tailored to benefit the general public. Hence in that regard, the relevance of a well designed health care system cannot be overstated. This paper takes Sweden as a reference point in seeking to map the history, demographics as well as structure (political) that informed the development of the nation's health care system. Further, the major health conditions facing Sweden as well as the organization and financing of the nation's health care system will be discussed. This paper will also demonstrate how Sweden's health care system differs from that of the United States. Lastly, based on the discussion, one lesson the United States can derive from Sweden's health care system will be clearly and concisely highlighted.
According to Reid (2009), the Swedish health care system is part of the nation's larger approach to social insurance funded by income taxes of Swedish citizens.
Overall, Swedish health care costs amount to approximately ten percent of the country's GDP, which is more than three times less than the cost of American health care. Most of the health care facilities and services in the country are furnished by physicians and health care workers who comprise of public employees earning wages comparable to those earned by other professionals in areas that require less skill. This in the view of Reid (2009) reflects a fundamental socialist approach that could not be implemented in U.S. Similarly, Swedish citizens are restricted to receiving a significant portion of health care services within their immediate counties (Genser, 1999). Further, as far as the Swedish health care system is concerned, physicians aged 65 years and above may not practice within the public system. This age matches the national retirement age in general.
It can be noted that in Sweden, the entire drug dispensing process is nationalized in a system that requires only the patient's identity card at any dispensary. Patients do pay a nominal fee for physician services amounting to approximately $20 per visit and similarly, they also do pay a nominal amount for prescriptions (all medical expenses are subject to annual caps that would barely pay for most minor surgical services in the U.S.). Preventative care is considered essential and preventative services are included in the health care system (Genser, 1999).
Sweden: An Overview
Located on Northern Europe's Scandinavian Peninsula, Sweden has a population of approximately 9.1 million. Currently, the country's employment rate stands at approximately 5.6%. This significantly differs from that of the United States which currently stands at about 9% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011). Basically, the nation's health care is paid for by the government and in a way, this ensures that almost everyone has health care coverage. It can be noted that the Swedish health care system basically has three layers or levels. These levels include national, local and regional levels. While the regional level is responsible for health care provision as well as financing to the various county councils, the national level has social affairs and health ministry as the ones establishing guidelines for health as well as medical care while the local level is charged with maintaining the social welfare services.
Major Health Conditions
Sweden like many other countries all over the world suffers from a number of health concerns which happen to be prevalent throughout the country. For instance, heart failure is one of the most serious health conditions in the country. In that regard, the condition continues to demand a large chunk of the nation's health care resources. To highlight this, Anderson & Rydean-Bersten (1999) note that in 1995, "heart failure was the fourth most common reason for hospital care…" particularly for those aged 65 years and above. Further, in the period under consideration, heart failure accounted for approximately 14% of all instances of hospital care associated with circulatory system diseases (Anderson & Rydean-Bersten, 1999).
In recent times, Obesity has also been identified as an evolving health issue in Sweden although in comparison to international obesity rates, Sweden's obesity rate still remains low. As Neovius et al. (2006) note, obesity prevalence in recent times has been worrying. This is especially the case given that the condition has been on an upward trend across the spectrum with those affected including children, adolescents and even adults. According to Neovius et al. (2006), the prevalence of obesity particularly amongst adults has in the last twenty years doubled. Thus in that regard, Sweden needs to take deliberate steps to contain the condition before it becomes an epidemic going forward.
Asbestos related health issues, like lung fibrosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma, are also issues of grave concern in Sweden. With that in mind, laws have been implemented in the recent past to assist in the reduction of asbestos related health issues. However, major reductions in terms of occurrence rates of asbestos related health issues may take quite a while.
Sweden does not have major health conditions related to smoking. Indeed, it is estimated that close to 85% of Swedes do not smoke (Sweden.se, 2011). On this front, Sweden scores highly as very few countries have such a high percentage of non-smokers. The low percentage of smokers in the case of Sweden can hence be said to have contributed to fewer major health conditions related to smoking.
The Organization of Sweden's Health Care System
The health care system in Sweden is largely organized on equal access to services basis. It is financed through tax payers. The health care system in this case is also significantly decentralized. As it is highlighted by Sweden.se (2011), the "responsibility for providing health care is decentralized to the county councils and, in some cases, municipal governments." It can be noted that in this case, county councils are essentially political formations comprising of elected representatives.
It is a Swedish policy for the county council to provide residents of a given county with high quality health care as well as medical care. In this case, the county council is also charged with the duty of promoting good health for residents. Sweden has two hundred and ninety municipalities, eighteen county councils, and two regions. Swedish county councils perform approximately 90% of work touching on health care. Municipalities in the country are basically in charge and accountable for the care of elderly residents with health care in this case being availed at home or in special accommodation. It is also the duty of the municipalities to care for residents with psychological disorders and/or physical disabilities. The support and services for patients released from hospitals is also under the jurisdiction of municipalities. Also under the jurisdiction of Swedish municipalities are health care services thought schools.
It can be noted that Sweden is also working on health care in an international framework. In that regard, the country continues to be on the front line in the corporation with EU for the enhancement of health and medical services. Collaboration in this case touches on the enhancement of patient influence as well as the improvement of patient care (Sweden.se, 2011).
Financing of the Swedish Health Care System
As it has been noted earlier on in this text, the delivery of health care in Sweden is tailored in a way that ensures everyone enjoys access to health care on an equal and fair basis. According to the Swedish Institute (2011), the health care system in this case in addition to being decentralized is funded by the taxpayer. Municipalities, county councils and the central government share the health and medical care responsibility. However, a majority of Sweden's medical and health costs are settled using municipal and county taxes. The national government also makes some contribution to the health care funding and a patient fee hence covers a small percentage of the overall health care cost.
It can be noted that medical care and health care costs account for approximately 9% of the country's GDP. This percentage according to Swedish Institute (2011) has since the early 1980s remained relatively stable. In a nutshell, the percentage of the country's health care funded by way of taxation at the local level is captured as 71%. In this case, it can be noted that county councils also possess a right when it comes to income tax collection. Basically, about 97% of medical expenditure is met or paid for by the state.
In a big way, the cost of health care in Sweden is comparable to most other countries in Europe. Further, Sweden's health care system remains closely linked to social insurance effectively meaning that everyone who lives or works in the country benefits by having equal access to health care. In most cases, sick leave pay usually equals to 80% of an individual's salary. This payment starts on the second day of being sick as the first sick day is not compensable (Swedish…