A Personal Account of Socialized Medicine in Sweden
By Mikael Sandström
The following is a story about my experience with the Swedish healthcare system.
It was late autumn in 2011, in the beginning of my studies as a Masters student at the University of Stockholm, Sweden. I was having some minor eye issues so I decided to go for an eye exam in Sweden. Keep in mind, I had already been to the eye exam in the United States and the doctor told me to continuously check my eye pressure to make sure it doesn’t raise above a certain level so I figured this was a good opportunity to test the Swedish healthcare system and check my eye pressure at the same time.
I walked in and was immediately handed a form to fill out and pay a fee about $20, apparently unless you frequently visit the doctor, you still have to pay introductory fees. I walked into the doctors office and explained the situation with my eye pressure, so they used an obvious 20+ year old equipment to uncomfortably check my pressure. (the one in the United States was quick and painless) Everything was OK, however, a specialized doctor was recommended so they casually reminded me to look for an appointment letter in the mail within a week…
Ten months later…
I had spent the summer in the United States and came back with a fresh mind, completely forgetting the fact I went to the eye doctor to confirm something I already knew. Apparently the appointment letter took 10 months to come through and find me a date. The appointment was obligatory and if I decided to not show up, I would be sent a fine. I decided to turn down the appointment because I wasn’t very comfortable going completely through a system so ineffective that it would take 10 months to receive an appointment. This was merely a test to see how the Swedish healthcare system functions so if I really wanted a professional opinion, clearly I would rely on a specialized doctor in the United States (well, I did in 2010 and they already told me what I needed to know) so going to this appointment date would be reiterating the same story.
When I turned the appointment date down, I thought well this is it, I don’t have to deal with this debunked system anymore! Wrong, a week later, I received a new mail on a new date. After speaking with some local Swedes, they were told this is truly an obligatory date and if I miss it I will be heavily fined or if I cancel the appointment, they’ll just push a new one back. In addition to this, the appointment was in a different city from the original appointment so as an economical man, I have to pay the train ticket both directions, taxi cab to the location, all to speak to a professional that will reiterate the same story I was told by a professional in the United States.
So the question you ask yourself, would a private insurance company be more effective? Fortunately this is not an urgent manner I had to deal with, but what if you had to get surgery on something that was extremely painful but you had to wait 10 months to get the appointment letter?