I have been hearing a lot of pundits and politicians bemoan “socialized medicine” and its supposed inefficiencies and inequities. These horror stories are never accompanied by data, just hearsay and anecdotes from “a friend of a friend” in Canada or the United Kingdom. Rarely have I heard from people who have themselves experienced a universal public health care system. As one of those people, I thought I should speak up.
While living in Finland for three years, I experienced socialized medicine up close and personal. I gave birth to my son there.
Finland’s public health care system is run by a government agency called KELA, and the doctors, nurses, dentists, and other health care workers are government employees. KELA usually covers 100% of the cost of most services at public clinics, with small copayments for prescriptions and hospital stays that are scaled to a patient’s income. Finland also has many private clinics that are available to those who want to use them, where patients pay the extra cost of the private service (KELA will pay up to what the service would cost at a public clinic). When you visit a clinic or hospital you present your KELA card at the reception desk, and if a payment is necessary you can pay at the clinic, or a bill can be sent to your home.