Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Healthcare in the US

I have never bought healthcare insurance. Ever. I was horribly spoiled and my parents kept me on their plan as long as they could. Then I moved to Sweden. As we all know, you don’t pay for healthcare in Sweden. Or something like that.

The difference is that instead of every month money being deducted from my paycheck in the US and going directly to pay for my healthcare, money is deducted from my paycheck in Sweden and goes indirectly to pay for my healthcare. That "in" makes all the difference.

Of course, since leaving Sweden, I find myself suddenly being forced into American adulthood. And that means healthcare. And it also means several different plans to choose from. It means a 97 page PDF file. It means a second PDF file of equal length.

It also means that instead of me living my life blissfully unaware of what my healthcare benefits are and just assuming someone will pick up the tab, I have to pay attention. It means that every month I will see a small deduction that goes straight to healthcare insurance.

I forgot just how little attention needed to be paid in Sweden. How unengaged I was. Suddenly I was thrust into the world of co-pays and deductibles. Poring over hundreds of pages of information. Asking colleagues. Exploring websites. Looking up words. It’s been exhausting. After several hours, I’m well on my way to being covered. And it feels good.

I’m not even going to pretend what the new healthcare plan set forth by the US government will mean. I haven’t been paying attention. That’s what happens after three years abroad. I lose interest and I lose touch. There’s no better way to get that back than to be filling out healthcare forms less than two months after landing in the country.

Strangely enough, I’m excited about this. I like being in control. Knowing what I am getting for the money I am paying. Knowing who to see, where to go, what to pay. It’s liberating in its control over me. I’m a sucker for structure.

Welcome to Swedish-America. And healthcare.

Subscribe to a Swedish American in Sweden


  1. Oh, Hariy! Welcome home, firstly. Secondly...while it's nice to hear and understandable that having some choice and control over healthcare is empowering (which I agree, it can be)...on the other hand. Ahem. Spoken like a rather healthy person! Should, (Thor forbid), you actually get really sick or have an expensive and NOT COVERED medical issue....I don't think sorting through 97 pages of bills would bring the same type of empowerment. I envy a universal system for those reasons. I also haven't paid very close attention, but I'm hopeful whatever changes were made will eventually steps in the right direction. Though I would not be at all surprised if it makes things worse before it hopefully makes things better.

  2. Good point "not undecided"! If you are healthy and have those money and time to read all the stuff that seems to be needed this is no issue...

    Says a so far very healthy swede who has paid taxes during a 33 year long work life for health care for everybody, including myself whe and if I need it.

  3. the 97 page pdf must be the reason to why I still don't have a healthcare insurance

  4. I would take the part about knowing what you get for the money with a big grain of salt. The problem with insurance companies is that you never know what you are actually covered for until you finally need it, and by then the insurance company will do everything in their power to drop you.

  5. I've experienced both systems and I definately prefer the Swedish. One of my favorite things - no forms, ever.

    In the states, you go to the dentist, fill out a form. You go to proctologist:-), fill out a form. Go to pediatrician, fill out a form. Not in Sweden.

    The US is probably best in the world for emergency medicine and they put tons of money into saving one person. For example, my nephew is one of only two people living with a strange heart malfunction. They spent a million dollars a day on him to keep him alive. If he were born in Sweden, I'm confident he wouldn't be alive today.

    But in the end, I still choose Sweden. Better care for all.

  6. @Gabriel: I'm not so sure about that. Swedish hospitals do not do cost estimations for emergency life saving procedures. If they have the resources to keep someone alive they will do it, or fly the patient to some other hospital, in Sweden or abroad (preferably Norway or Denmark).

  7. I do NOT miss American paperwork bureaucracy when it comes to healthcare.

    Good luck dude.

    @anonymous2 - that's probably why 40 million people don't have insurance. (and the expense of having one too)

  8. @Gabriel: I can't agree with you on that. In Sweden it's illegal to not do anything in your power to save a persons life no matter what the cost, and since it's the government paying for it and not a private person/company/privately owned hospital that has to think about costs all the time I think it's more like the other way around.

    Plus it's proven that the Swedish healthcare in general is one of the best in the world (except the waiting time that is.) The vast majority survive surgery and problems with MRSA that is big in for instance the UK and the US because of lacking hygiene and over consumption of antibiotics is not that big of a problem here.

    And as the previous person said, if the specialists doesn't exist here in Sweden they will fly you to that country to make sure that person survives :)

    So your friend would probably survive living in Sweden IF there isn't some special treatment found only in the US. In that case the Swedish government would fly him there and pay for some of the treatment :)

  9. ok last anonymous - at the hospital in Sweden I was horrified at the lack of hygene. There was like some sort of saliva like substance on the floor, hair, and some dirty wooden instrument thing last time I went in. And waiting times can suck bad. I know someone here with an ovarian syst that is getting it taken out - in a YEAR. Thats no small thing. And not to mention they dont take stomach disorders seriously. Me and my family here (I suffer from IBS and them allergies) cannot get a doctor to take it seriously. They say its just stress. Right. Care is much better in the US. It's just that too many people lack insurance.

  10. @m8surf: In that case we would be the country with MRSA problems and not the US if it was a serious lack of hygiene here (which it's obviously not). Oh not to speak of all the allergies people in the US have cus of the over consumption of drugs (it's better to treat everyone with penicillin than really find out what the problem is, right? Thank you for causing the wester world to die from simple colds since deceases are getting immune to antibiotics.)

    And really "hair on the floor, saliva like substance and dirty wooden instrument?". First of all, where people go, hair usually follows, even if you clean the place twice a day. And I don't know where you went, it sounds like a shady underground clinic for illegal immigrants but I have never seen a "saliva like substance" covering the floor and no one has ever used a "wooden instrument" on me ever. What is a wooden instrument even? I don't know what hospital you visited but my mom works at a hospital and I've never seen anything like that there. She is not even allowed to wear earrings, rings or necklaces. You are not allowed to smoke in your scrubs if you work at a state owned hospital.

    And the fact is that people live longer here and the mortality rate for infants in Sweden is way lower than it is in the US against your system. In other words, it's safer to be born in Sweden and you will probably live longer here as well.

    And I had a friend admitted to a US hospital and they used instruments from like 1985 there so I guess we've both have had bad experiences.

    Plus of course you can get treated at the best hospital ever if you pay a lot of money for it, it's like that here in Sweden as well, we do got private hospitals here as well you know. But when 30 million American have to go to clinics that got the same standard as they do in the 3rd world cus they are not insured, is not "good healthcare".

    I do however agree with you that the waiting times for everything pretty much sucks here. If it's an emergency you are of course getting treated right away but it's not that fun walking around with a cyst or a broken hip for a year.

    And about your IBS problem, I guess the Swedish expression "som man frågar får man svar" fits you pretty good. In the US you can always say "Do I got IBS? If say I don't I wont pay you and go to another doctor!".

  11. @not undecided – it is going to be interesting to see how all of this is put into practice.

    @anonymous – the three years of taxes I paid in the country seems to pale in comparison to your 33.

    @anonymous – problems with adobe huh?

    @anonymous – fair enough, but at least I have something to work from.

    @Gabriel – they both have their benefits, I suppose it comes down to what you prefer.

    @anonymous – and now we know.

    @sapphire – Aside from all the reading, I only had three pages to fill out and it was ridiculously easy.

    @anonymous – and now we know again.

    @m8 – gross. So very gross.

    @anonymous – yup, its Americas fault that people are dying.