The American Way
During President Obama’s 2008 campaign, the President promised the American people a universal healthcare system, one which would provide healthcare benefits for those who previously could not afford them. The Affordable Care Act—or “Obamacare”— became the brainchild of this campaign promise, offering government regulated health insurance that has improved access, affordability, and quality of the healthcare system. President Obama’s goals were to alter the evils of the preexisting system through government accountability and his consideration of healthcare as a human right rather than a privilege. However, after much debate with House Republicans, the compromised Obamacare system which exists today is not what the President originally hoped to leave as his legacy.
Obamacare, for many, means higher premiums, fewer doctors, and weak coverage.
This election cycle, Senator Bernie Sanders promised Americans free college education, a concept which exists in European countries but has not been part of any prior politician’s campaign. For Sanders, any student with goals of obtaining a college education should not be denied the opportunity because their family cannot afford it. The Vermont Senator proposed the College for All Act, which guarantees free tuition at public universities across the country.
Senator Hillary Clinton, the presumed Democratic presidential candidate, has proposed a different route to affordable university education. Her plan gives students the choice to graduate from a public university without taking on any student debt. Through working minimum 10 hours each week, students can use a portion of their income to fund their own education.
What is Different Across the Pond?
Besides the cobblestone streets and avid bike riding, Sweden provides their citizens with quality education and healthcare programs, without contest from citizens or disagreement from political leadership. It is hard to imagine a country of 9.9 million people, all with equal access to education and all guaranteed healthcare protection if ill or injured.
4 Differences in Swedish Healthcare
- Equal Access: The average life span of a Swedish woman is 83.7 years and 80.1 for a Swedish man, meaning Swedes live longer due to falling mortality rates. Access to universal healthcare at every age allows Swedes to create healthy life patterns and receive care whenever necessary.
- Shared Responsibility: Partnership between Swedish federal government, county councils, and local municipalities determine healthcare costs. However, most responsibility falls to local governments, which grants each municipality freedom to determine how taxes are spent without the federal government regulating or enforcing criteria.
- Decentralized Healthcare: According to the Swedish government’s website, Swedish county councils are political bodies with representatives elected by residents of the county every four years. There are 20 county councils in the country, each determining health care benefits for the residents of that county according to taxes accumulated.
- Focus on Midwives: Sweden’s history of training midwives has resulted in a sharp reduction of mortality among women during childbirth, which has also reduced birthing costs for families.
Scholarships for All! (even non-Swedes)
With a motto for education like “freedom with responsibility,” the sky is the limit with Swedish universities. Taxes cover the cost of Swedish citizens who desire university education, but this model of education is mostly independent and individual, rather than the American model of lecture in a classroom setting. Students at Swedish universities are responsible for conducting their own research projects, and it is expected that they are dedicated and reliable enough to do so without much supervision.
Acceptance to a Swedish university is different than in the U.S. To be admitted, a Swede must have completed high school or an adult education program, which includes challenging benchmarks and exams to measure aptitude. One can also pass the Swedish Scholarship Aptitude Test, which anyone interested in Swedish university can take for admission. This exam, however, is entirely in Swedish, so fluency in the language is a requirement. If one passes this exam, he or she can apply for full scholarships to Swedish university, even without Swedish naturalization.
Cost for one year at a Swedish university varies, but it can cost anywhere between 80,000-140,000 SEK ($9,333-$16,336 USD).
Would this work in the USA?
The difference between the Swedish system and the American system lies in culture. The Swedes all pay nearly equal taxes to their government, so there is minimal contest of unequal taxation. In the U.S., income varies so largely that upper-class American citizens are unhappy when they are taxed more because of the sense that they have earned the money they make. Ultimately, American culture lacks the ‘shared’ mentality that Swedish culture advocates.
In conclusion, it is a benefit to the Swedes to allow local municipalities to determine social needs for residents of their municipality. This bottom-up logic is proven successful, yet the top-down American logic is proven to create hostility between parties that leads to unsuccessful reform and systems that act as Band-Aids or Time-Outs. For these systems to succeed in the U.S., the federal government needs to return power to state governments, inviting each state to act as a county council to determine its healthcare and education needs for residents. Under this system, the federal government would act as a regulatory body to ensure states follow stipulated guidelines, rather than as a decision-making body for every stat in the union.
Clinton, Hillary, https://www.hillaryclinton.com/issues/college/
Sanders, Bernie, http://feelthebern.org/bernie-sanders-on-education/
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://www.hhs.gov/healthcare/
Sweden Government Website—higher education, https://sweden.se/society/higher-education-and-research/
Sweden Government Website—healthcare, https://sweden.se/society/health-care-in-sweden/
Study in Sweden, https://studyinsweden.se/study-information/fees-and-costs/?nabe=5296740830281728:0
The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2015/11/19/obamacares-problems-get-worse/