I went to Apoteket the other day. Had to pick up a dildo, it’s not everywhere you can get one of those at the pharmacy. I kid, I kid. Come on now. I had to pick up a prescription.
The interesting thing about this is that I had found myself in two different conversation about the Swedish healthcare system prior to my trip to Apoteket. One group of three other Americans, and one group of four Swedes. Both conversations had a whole lot of negative things to say about the healthcare system. The Americans tended to complain about the waiting times. The Swedes however, really railed against the system. Going so far as to say that one should never go to a Swedish doctor. That the system was marred by shoddy care, incompetence, and long lines. To steal a line from Bill Simmons, ladies and gentlemen, your 2008 tax kronor at work. Obviously this all made me feel wonderful about heading off to Apoteket to pick up a prescription.
But it was an exciting experience. I had never been to Apoteket in Sweden to actually get any sort of medicine. To use that social health care system that is raved about the world over, but that had just been taken down a notch by two separate conversations here in Sweden.
I was met by a sea of people. The place was packed. Luckily, no one was waiting in line. Because everyone had grabbed a number and quietly sat themselves on the provided benches. It was all so very Swedish. And I reveled in it.
So I grabbed a number as well. I sat down and waited patiently. I was the patient after all. The lovely pharmacist called my name. I handed over my prescription and she said she’d take care of it. Well actually, she looked at the clock and then corrected herself. A colleague would take care of it. Apparently her shift was coming to an end.
So I went and sat down. Patiently waiting. Apparently my boyish charm and good lucks convinced the pharmacist to work overtime. I know this has worked on my local pharmacist back home. She called me back and asked for my ID. Shit. All I had with me was my American driver’s license. I hastily explained what the deal was, recited my personnummer, which was also listed on my prescription, pointed out my date of birth on my driver’s license. She was convinced. I’m telling you – boyish charm.
Anyway, at this point it had been established that I was much more American than Swedish. And for the first time in Sweden I really felt like I was being treated differently for being American. And strangely enough, I was quite pleased about it. Despite the pharmacist suddenly speaking in that special tone of voice reserved for people we just aren’t sure understand. You know the one, a little bit slower, a little bit louder, just a little bit demeaning. And still I appreciated it.
The pharmacist began explaining, in great detail, very simply, with lots of pointing to labels and papers, about how I was to administer the medicine. It was good. I appreciated the thoroughness of it all. Medicine isn’t one of those things that should be handled lightly. So after being well versed in how to cure myself with the help of big pharma, I went on my merry way.
A better man for having experienced the Swedish healthcare system. But a poorer man. Because healthcare in Sweden isn’t really free. I paid, with the exchange rate at the time, about 80 American dollars for my prescription. I checked with my friendly local pharmacist from back home, (there he is again, he does good work) and was told that the same prescription in the US would have cost me $146.99 for the name brand or $51.99 for the generic brand.
Welcome to Sweden. And the Swedish healthcare system.