America’s history is rooted so deeply in freedom of choice to either win or lose in one’s economic decisions. This can be epitomized by so many early Europeans coming to the New World in search of a new life, many of which had very little wealth in terms of personal property or education, but eventually pioneered much of the American wilderness creating farms, small communities, and big cities. From the earliest Americans that came to Jamestown Virginia to the more recent immigrants coming through Ellis Island, many of these Americans have argued for less government intervention in their lives and created a culture that keeps the government from controlling everyday choices like gun control to even universal healthcare. Even today, America does not even have a universal healthcare system, even though many other industrial nations do.
Many Americans argue that a universal healthcare system will not work in America because a large portion of Americans will simply take advantage of the system, in terms of not altering their unhealthy behavior, thus, running up the costs for everyone. Moreover, many feel that healthcare is simply not a privilege to be handed to everyone, and should be employer based to ensure everyone pays for their own healthcare, as much as possible. This seems to be a cultural issue rooted deeply in the American value of individuals being independent as much as possible from government influences. On the other hand, a country like Norway has some pure socialist practices, especially in the area of healthcare. In fact, everyone in Norway has healthcare. It is the law of the land.
Norwegians are more practical than Americans in how they spend their money, they enjoy saving money for quality health care. According to Bruce Bartlett, a Forbes Magazine columnist, on a per capita basis, Norwegians spend $4,763 per year, and covers everyone, while Americans spend $7,290. By various standards of health quality, like life expectancy or rate of preventable deaths, Norway does better than the U.S. One key measure is physicians per capita: America has 2.43 physicians compared with Norway’s 4 doctors per every 1,000 people, even though Norway spends a third less of its Gross Domestic Product on health care than the U.S. does.
Why is the cost of healthcare in Norway less than that in America? The eye catching statistic that reveals Norwegian superiority in providing lower cost healthcare is that the number of doctors in America, per capita, is actually less than in Norway. Perhaps increasing the supply of healthcare providers in America could lower overall healthcare expenditures for healthcare. Perhaps there is a deep rooted cultural reason in Norway that is helping to keep healthcare costs down. Maybe their society has a healthier population than countries like America.
Finally, it appears capitalistic and socialistic policies both can benefit a nation like America. America has the greatest GDP of any nation, but yet, does not provide a universal healthcare system for its citizens. One would think that through sheer size and because of its economic output, America could keep its healthcare costs lower for its citizens than a country like Norway. Perhaps the free market system in America will one day solve all of the demands that its citizens want, like universal healthcare. If not, perhaps a more controlled socialistic policy will be created providing universal healthcare that is similar to the one implemented in Norway. There is a school of thought for each economic approach, but the bottom line is, there is a cost to be paid, and ultimately the consumer/taxpayer will bear that cost.
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