The socialized-medicine model is struggling elsewhere in Europe as well. Even in Sweden, often heralded as the paradigm of a successful welfare state, months-long wait times for treatment routinely available in the U.S. have been widely documented.
To fix the problem, the Swedish government has aggressively introduced private-market forces into health care to improve access, quality and choices. Municipal governments have increased spending on private-care contracts by 50% in the past decade, according to Näringslivets Ekonomifakta, part of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, a Swedish employers’ association.
Swedish primary-care clinics and nursing facilities are increasingly run by the private sector or receive substantial public funding. Widespread private competition has also been introduced into pharmacies to tear down the previous government monopoly over all prescription and non-prescription drugs. Though Swedish economist Per Bylund calculates that the average Swedish family already pays nearly $20,000 annually in taxes toward health care, about 12% of working adults bought private insurance in 2013, a number that has increased by 67% in five years, according to the trade organization Insurance Sweden. Almost 600,000 Swedes now use private insurance, though they are “guaranteed” public health care.