A DANISH STUDENT’S PERSPECTIVES ON HEALTHCARE

Denmark's Largest Hospital

By Param Bhatter
Staff Writer

The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, will face multiple challenges during its implementation over the next few years. The act is attempting to increase affordability and quality of health insurance, expand public health coverage and mandate similar coverage rates for those with preexisting conditions, in what is often portrayed as a collective effort to socialize healthcare. Even though the United States is far from a fully subsidized healthcare system, there is much to learn going forward if this goal is to be met. Denmark, where the social healthcare system has overcome adversities and flourished, is a rather interesting place to look to as an example. In Prospect’s exclusive interview with a Danish international exchange student, Peter Hjorth Vindum revealed his views on the benefits and issues the Danish healthcare system has faced.

Peter began by describing an overview of the Danish healthcare system. Fully subsidized by the government, there is truly only one hospital system that operates over the entire country. These hospitals treat all Danish citizens completely free of charge, regardless of their age, preexisting medical conditions or employment. Because of this centralization of healthcare, the overall system runs more efficiently; for example, the centralized infrastructure allows faster patient data transfer. While this seems to work extremely well in Denmark, it is important to note that Obamacare takes a different approach by focusing on increasing competition between providers, as this is expected to cause the overall quality of healthcare to rise. Even though allowing citizens to compare and select the best insurance providers is currently a valid strategy for accomplishing the goals of the ACA, in the future it may also be in America’s best interest to centralize the system for total efficiency, as Denmark has done.

Peter then described some of the issues that have plagued the healthcare system in Denmark for the past couple of years, and what the government has done to combat these problems. Peter argued that the worst part of having a centralized healthcare system is that treatment is often inaccessible in rural parts of Denmark, as all hospitals and most outpatient clinics are located in cities or suburban areas. People often have to drive up to 50 miles for a weekly checkup, or even further for access to surgical treatments. To counteract this problem, the Danish government has been focusing on developing more outpatient clinics and on increasing the number of emergency care centers in rural areas. While not all treatment types are available for patients at these outpatient clinics, patients don’t have to encounter long ambulance lines and waits at the emergency rooms.

One of the unsolved issues that still remains for Danish citizens’ concerns the quality of care at these mega-hospitals. One major issue is overcrowding at hospitals, creating long waits for procedures in cases that are not immediately life threatening. Hospitals are usually fully booked, with patients sharing rooms and being rushed out as soon as possible. Additionally, there are long waiting lines for surgeries, often more than a month, and patients are forced to cope with their problems while they wait. However, Peter claims that this trend is increasingly accepted as the norm, as people understand that it is impossible to have excellent, individualized care for every single citizen. No matter the socio-economic status of the patients, the facility and doctors that treat them are the same. This equality is what drives the system effectively and allows it to work with minimal issues.

If America looks to move forward in improving the overall quality of life for all of its citizens, healthcare must be of the utmost political importance. In Denmark, Peter says, the healthcare system is considered to be sacred. Just as in the United States, fiscal issues and deficit spending plague Denmark continuously. However, the Danish citizens and their government refuse to even touch the healthcare portion of the budget, which in turn leads to better treatment and care throughout the country. Obamacare is projected to decrease the national deficit by cutting down on overhead spending in various areas of healthcare, if the ACA is enacted as written. Now that we have instituted the ACA, we will only have to wait and see if this actually will lead to better quality healthcare with less debt, which at best could even outdo the Danish healthcare system’s successes.

Image by Karen Mardahl

BLOG: LAND OF THE DYING SUN: JAPAN’S LOOMING DEBT CRISIS

This week, as school is just starting at UC San Diego, Prospect is revisiting some of our most popular pieces from the previous academic year. We will begin posting new material soon; until then, enjoy our look back!

By Nolan Weber
Senior Editor

Work-a-day meth addicts can keep it together for a time—and they may even get a lot of stuff done. Hey, look at Christopher Walken. He managed to earn a small fortune staying alive for countless rounds of Russian Roulette in The Deer Hunter. Granted he wasn’t a speed addict, but the fact is, no matter what, unsustainable situations always crash—hard.

That might as well be the case with Japan. The confluence of factors impending over its eventual demise retain such a serious tone, it is hard not to fear for the nation’s long-term governmental stability. From energy to fiscal to monetary policy, Japan finds itself between a rock and a hard place on every front.

In the wake of the Fukishima Nuclear Disaster, Japan has halted the production of all nuclear power—reducing domestic energy production by 30 percent of pre-Fukishima levels. Japan now has to import fossil fuels to make up the difference. With national debt at 230 percent of GDP and a budget deficit of 56 percent of GDP, Japan currently has to grapple with negative economic expansion while producing domestic energy at heavy loss. Indeed, Japan has entered a deep recession given its economy is contracting at an annualized rate of 2.3 percent.

Furthering disconcerting sentiment, Japan currently allocates 25 percent of its budget to simply service the interest on its debt.To keep itself afloat, the industrial titan is seeking to devalue the yen to maintain its manufacturing-based, export-driven economy. Yet, by debasing its currency Japan is destroying its citizens’ wealth. The people of Japan, more than any other developed nation, buy their own government bonds—Japanese debt. Consequently, citizens are primed to see negative returns on their investment and realize a dystopian retirement if the Bank of Japan tries to print its way out of this predicament.

The Bank of Japan certainly cannot deflate. If policy is set to strengthen the yen, their economy will shrivel in the face of Japan’s need to export. It is a resource poor nation. It imports 90 percent of raw goods, yet, historically, it has done an excellent job in generating wealth by creating usable products out of raw materials. However, if the Bank of Japan decides to let the yen appreciate in value, the manufacturing upon which the country depends will be priced out of the market.

We don’t have a place in history to reference where a decades-long, recession-stricken country has suddenly lost 30 percent of its energy output and forced to survive. Will Japan collapse? I don’t know. But what I do know is the Bank of Japan has clearly adopted a policy of currency debasement–printing. To that end, there has been no nation that has been able to print its way to prosperity. Indeed, people orders of magnitude smarter than myself are trembling at what will happen next.

Photo by Matteo Mazzoni