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HEALTH CARE: U.S. total taxes comparable, benefits lag

Letter by Ruth Knagenhjelm, Normandy Park on April 6, 2012 at 10:09 am with 38 Comments »
April 6, 2012 10:09 am

Re: “Norway system has high price” (letter, 4-5).

Norway with a single-payer system gives universal quality coverage for approximately one-third less money per resident vs. the United States. Practitioners are more productive from less paperwork with one plan. I know, having worked here and there as a physical therapist.

The taxes the letter writer refers to also cover universal benefits like short- and long-term disability and 10 months paid maternity/paternity leave. Also included is universally guaranteed four weeks of vacation and tuition-free public colleges and universities, including a living expense grant.

My son lives in Norway and makes about the same as my American husband and I combined, and our mortgages are comparable. I added up our taxes and premiums for benefits that are included in taxes over there and here, including property taxes (which are very low or nonexistent in Norway). It came to about 40 percent here; add the 10 percent sales tax and you get approximately 50 percent, very equal to my son’s taxes.

Benefits there – like no tuition and universally guaranteed vacation – was not included in this comparison, nor our contributions to charity here.

For benefits that all residents will use sometime in their life, a public/tax-based solution is by far the most cost-effective. It also affords people with a security that helps them focus more on creativity and innovation, which translates into more private enterprise, universal happiness and huge savings.

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  1. In other words, you described ‘the better way.’ Many Americans cannot conceive that a different way of doing things might actually be better than what they are used to. Furthermore, like a beaten animal, conservatives involuntarily convulse at the mere mention of a socialized service – no critical thinking is involved, just an emotional reaction. Last time I checked, we don’t have private Fire Departments, who’s service is only available to those who can afford a subscription. The efficiencies of a free market trade do not apply the same to medicine – the overhead costs of book keeping, billing etc are outrageously inefficient.

    Free market efficiencies have been successful in promoting ever advancing consumer technology and goods at a low price. Anyone notice the same is not true for health care?

  2. cclngthr says:

    norsey,
    Under the free market system, certain people are denied coverage altogether because the care costs too much, either by denying coverage or the coverage costs too much.

  3. firemannotfirefighter says:

    Something that the writer fails to mention, is that Norway is a largely homogenous society. And before all of you trolls go off the deep end, this is a RELEVANT issue. The simple fact is that members of different races are more or less susceptible to certain diseases and general health issues. And no, this is not a red herring or a straw argument. For example, the CDC website shows that different ethnicity’s have a larger occurrence of Prostate Cancer.

    http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/prostate/statistics/race.htm

    This is just one example, but search the CDC database and you will see that it is a significant enough of a disparity that it has an overall effect on the nations healthcare system.

    The overall population of Norway is just under 5,000,000 people. Yes that is 5 MILLION. By comparison the Population of the State of Washington is over 6,000,000. Yes that is 6 Million for Washington State alone. So comparing a nation whose population is below just 1 state of our nation and attempting to make a logical comparison is, well to quote Spock… Illogical. Yes, I am aware that the writers very scientific study takes population into account, but I thought is was still worth noting.

    Did you include the Value Added Tax in your comparison? Norway is historically recognized as having a VERY expensive standard of living, in part due to their high salaries and very generous benefits packages. Once again though, they are only dealing with a population that is CONSIDERABLY less than that of the State of Washington.

    As far as the comparison regarding price, yes, Norway offer largely tuition free colleges and studying. And yes, they accomplish this by having a much larger tax rate than here in the United States. They also allow drilling for Oil and Natural Gas, which is a significant part of their economy.

    I love when people attempt to compare the Healthcare system in the United States with that of other countries without EVER taking into account mitigating factors. Does the healthcare industry and system in the United States need a massive overhaul? YES, I am 100% in agreement with this. But we need to realize that our economy cannot support the type of systems that are found in Europe or Scandinavia.

  4. alindasue says:

    norsey,

    There have been a few towns that have tried the “subscription” fire departments. I remember reading a story this last year where fire fighters sat and watched a house burn down because the owner didn’t pay for service. They were only there to hose down the neighbors’ houses to make sure the fire didn’t spread. Some people like that idea. I don’t.

    Can you imagine if the people of our community were protected by a similar “subscription” police force?

    Judging from the comments I’ve seen on the health care issue, there are those here who would like to see a return to such an attitude in health care – where a person can be turned away from an emergency room because he lacks sufficient money or insurance.

    However, as the letter writer points out, “For benefits that all residents will use sometime in their life, a public/tax-based solution is by far the most cost-effective,” – and, usually, the most moral.

  5. cclngthr says:

    alindasue,

    “Judging from the comments I’ve seen on the health care issue, there are those here who would like to see a return to such an attitude in health care – where a person can be turned away from an emergency room because he lacks sufficient money or insurance.”

    This is what people want. If people don’t have money or healthcare, they often are thought as useless and should die quickly because they are perceived as burdens on society.

    Your son likely would fall in this category as well.

  6. BlaineCGarver says:

    Perhaps Norway will take over our role in World protection and stability so that we might have a shot at Eden…..Maybe they’ll also take our millions of illegals and welfare sponges, too.

  7. BlaineCGarver says:

    Oh…and they can take our corrupt politicians that sell the American Heritage for voter base….

  8. Please, Norway, take our General Sevices Administration that spent $800,000 on a “conference” for federal employees. Also Take Fannie and Freddie. That way, maybe we can afford some of those wonderful benefits provided by Norway. No, we don’t do return merchandise.

  9. PumainTacoma says:

    Ruth your math is flawed. Did you add in the tax on goods that are not seen on your receipt in Norway? I don’t know where your son lives, but Oslo is one of the most expensive cities around to live. I doubt your son goes to restaurants or eats out. What is the cost of milk, fruit, meat in Norway? I guarantee you it is more expensive. Food prices are very very expensive and diesel is the highest in the region, too. I doubt your son can live cheaper in Oslo (if he lives there) than any other city in the NW. The standard of living is extremely expensive. My relative lived and worked for the Embassy there for years and had a great salary and small condo.

  10. alindasue says:

    PumainTacoma,

    “…cost of milk, fruit, and meat…” “…great salary and small condo.”

    When it comes to high cost of living, you could be talking about Oslo, Tokyo, New York, or Honolulu. The only difference is that in Oslo and Tokyo, everyone has access to medical care.

  11. Pacman33 says:

    LOL. Norway ………? The land of the Great Butter Shortage?
    Absurd. You people are nuts if you want to follow the the example of a nation that must do without common comforts, had by 3rd nations, at any given time. Yeah, I got your Socialism right here.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2011/12/13/143661398/norway-braces-for-a-christmas-without-butter

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/09/norway-butter-shortage-_n_1139350.html

    Whad eefe eat wass youoow …. thit didn’t half einy BUDDUR!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ub0GzU56YMA

  12. Pacman33
    You’re razzing Norway for agricultural protectionism?

    Have you even looked at the US agricultural policies?

    Policies endoresed by both parties BTW. Please. We in the US are in no position to criticize other nations as far as farm policies go.

  13. menopaws says:

    The “American” way is nothing to brag about. We are famous, worldwide, for our intolerance and ignorance. Health care is the crown of our egos being bigger than our brains. Other countries do it better, cheaper and with better patient outcomes……Because Norway doesn’t invade other countries, somehow they are inept???? give me a break here—their citizens don’t have to support a bloated military or a bunch of lobbyists increasing government corruption………Really a shining example of how easily manipulated we are by a corrupt, inefficient system that feeds on our impotence to change.

  14. Can any rightie please explain how health care costs, per person, goes up as population goes up?
    You all seem very hung up on the population angle, so please explain how it is you think it’s relative.

  15. firemannotfirefighter says:

    “Can any rightie please explain how health care costs, per person, goes up as population goes up?”

    REALLY?!?!?!? You REALLY need THAT spelled out for you? Let’s see, as the population increases, the overall demand increases. Since the US isn’t seeing an increase in people entering the healthcare field, if the supply (The number of Doctors) stays the same or at least doesn’t keep up with the number of patients (coupled with frivolous lawsuits, fraud and non-payments) then the cost will go up. It’s the basis of our economy Supply Vs. Demand.

    Any other grade school level questions that we can answer for you?

  16. alindasue says:

    firemannot firefighter said, “…coupled with frivolous lawsuits, fraud and non-payments…”

    Consider this: under a universal health care system “fraud and non-payments” from patients would no longer be an issue that would discourage people from entering the health fields as a career.

  17. firemannotfirefighter says:

    “under a universal health care system “fraud and non-payments” from patients would no longer be an issue that would discourage people from entering the health fields as a career.”

    Ahhhh, and how would we pay for this?

    You say Fraud and Non-Payments would stop and yet the the CBO estimated that medicare inappropriately paid out in excess of $47,000,000,000 in fraudulent payments in 2010.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/15/AR2009111502488.html

    Let me make sure you understand the numbers (from the government) concerning the Government run Medicare program… $47 BILLION dollars. Yeah a Universal healthcare system would eliminate that as well? If the Government can’t eliminate fraud in it’s own medicare program, how the hell do you expect it do so under a Universal Healthcare system? let me guess, more government agencies like the GSA?

    As far as a Universal System “Encouraging” people to enter the healthcare industry, and those missed payments being eliminated, you fail to see the bigger picture. The Government would then set the rates of medical care. Doctors are HIGHLY trained and educated people that put in years of study, residency, and ongoing training and education. Yeah, let’s let the Government pick and choose how much doctors get paid, because that will encourage them to enter the healthcare field right? You are blinded by the promise of a healthcare system that cannot deliver the same quality of care. I am guessing that you have never spent 1 day in the healthcare industry treating patients and attempting to deal with the regulations and the red tape. If you did, you would most likely realize that the answer to our problem isn’t more red tape and the government… it’s the education of our citizens. The leading causes of death AND the most expensive health related treatments are largely preventable (Heart Disease, MANY forms of Cancer, and Diabetes). The estimated cost of Diabetes treatment alone in 2007 was in excess of $174 BILLION dollars (Diabetes.org). That DOESN’T include the cost of heart related conditions prevalent in Diabetics. Type 2 Diabetes is LARGELY preventable. These patients are more likely (due to their lifestyle) to have additional underlying medical conditions such as heart Disease, and other cardiovascular problems. Your Universal Healthcare does NOTHING to solve these issues. Only through education can we reduce the cost of healthcare! Attempt to fix the problem rather than just adding to it.

  18. So, one has tried, and failed to explain it, any others?
    It was a valiant effort I must say, not a word of truth to it but the effort was there.
    I really would like to know just how you rightists think population is relevant.
    It must be coming from somewhere, the drug addict maybe? fox? where is it coming from? I know none of are smart enough to question it when you hear it but can any of you at least try to reason out why it doesn’t matter?

  19. fireman rants and says nothing.

  20. took14theteam says:

    And beerBoy wasted bandwidth with his comment….

  21. The (unintentional) self-parodists on the Right always manage to crack me up!

  22. firemannotfirefighter says:

    Beerboy and Kluwer… care to take me up on my facts? I posted the sites and references. Show me where my logic is wrong? Universal Healthcare DOESN’T solve the problem. A better educated citizenry does!

    http://www.webmd.com/news/20110420/the-10-most-prescribed-drugs

    According to WebMD the MOST prescribed drugs in 2011, 5 of the top 10 are related to either Diabetes or Heart related conditions such as High BP or High Cholesterol (which in most people can be controlled through diet and lifestyle changes).

    Of the remaining 5, 2 are antibiotics. Antibiotic use can and will go down with the decrease of Heart disease and the elimination of preventable type 2 diabetes.

    So let’s see, 1/2 of the top 10 prescribed medicines are for treating conditions that can be controlled through diet and exercise (In MOST people. Some people are genetically prone to conditions). An additional 2 are often prescribed as a result of having the conditions that the other 5 cause. These aren’t made up numbers or even illogical arguments. They are the simple facts

    The number 1 cause of Death of Americans is Heart Disease.

    http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/lcod.htm

    What else is on that CDC list???? Oh wait, Diabetes and Cancer. High Blood pressure (Secondary to Heart Disease) causes a large number of strokes (Get rid of heart disease and stroke levels decrease).

    Where again is my logic flawed? Oh wait…. BB and Klu aren’t using logic. They are still just hoping things will change. Once again, rather than treating the actual reasons WHY our healthcare system is messed up, you want to treat the symptom. It’s like treating a cut on the finger and ignoring the penetrating wound to the chest. Education is the solution, a government takeover and red tape isn’t.

    But nice try. As a Healthcare provider for over a decade, I have worked within the system long enough to see the abuses and entitlement of patients. “No I WANT an ambulance to take me to the hospital and I don’t have to pay for it I am on coupons” (Even if the patient doesn’t need transported). I know firemen that have responded to hospitals to perform CPR AND transport to the ER in the SAME HOSPITAL! Universal Healthcare solve ANY of that? NOPE! Education does!

  23. Fireman – the problem with logic is that it only addresses the validity of the argument and does not address the truth of the antecedent suppositions.

    End fraud and abuse and either plan becomes more economically viable.

    “know fireman . . .” – sounds like you knew the keystone firefighters.
    Wonder what the hospital personnel thought of the intrusion.

  24. fireman – you are citing a whole bunch o’ facts that are only tangentially related to the issue.

    We are talking about healthcare INSURANCE.

  25. firemannotfirefighter says:

    “We are talking about healthcare INSURANCE”

    That is EXACTLY my point! You believe that the healthcare system will somehow magically get better through Universal healthcare. My argument, and the argument of MANY healthcare professionals is that if you don’t address the root problems in the Healthcare system, then NOTHING will make it better.

    Give EVERYONE insurance, and the only thing it does is line the pockets of the insurance companies. Give EVERYONE an education and help them better understand the lifestyle and changes needed to make better health related decisions, and you will see the demand for healthcare go down, thereby lowering the cost. Reduce by Half the number of PREVENTABLE diabetes cases or cancer or heart disease and see what that does for the affordability of healthcare.

    The simple fact is that health insurance isn’t going to solve ANY problem. We HAVE to first address the basics of any population, which is the education of the citizenry.

    Go to your doctor for an annual check-up and use your health insurance. You will pay whatever your deductible is and your doctor will run a battery of tests and labs on you. He/she will likely (at least in the case of most American’s) tell you to eat more veggies, less saturated fats, cut back on the alcohol and drop 10 pounds. Your doctor will spend less than 20 minutes with you. You would have been better off KNOWING all of that to begin with. You would be better off knowing that if you are 20 pounds overweight, your likelihood for heart disease increases.

    Let me try to re-frame the argument so that you can better explain your side and I can show you how wrong you are.

    What will Universal Healthcare accomplish here in the United States?

  26. menopaws says:

    Hey Fireman–you may be right……….Not only are we fat, we are also stupid and lazy………Keep embracing that model!!!!!

  27. Still no answer to my question from a rightist, anyone wonder why?

  28. firemannotfirefighter says:

    klu,

    No I answered it. You only problem is that for you, there is no answer that you will accept. Tell the parameters of what you will accept. Oh wait, that would mean that you have a rational argument and are willing to accept that your current way of thinking may be wrong. Are you willing to do that?

    menopaws… I am calling for changes in education. I am attempting to show that we must solve the root problems, not the symptoms. Am I using to much medical jargon here? The current system is broken. But the fix ISN’T dumping BILLIONS of more dollars into the same broken system without addressing the reasons WHY the system is broken.

    Look I understand that people on the left can’t accept ANY answer other than Universal Healthcare. Their desire to be like a European Nation that they have failed to live in or even visit is comical. The argument that “Norway has a system why don’t we just use theirs”, without taking into account the make-up of their population, their economy (I.E DRILLING for OIL!) or even their culture is pure ignorance. We are NOT Europe (Lived there, married to one), we cannot afford the type of Healthcare that they have because of our size and our population base, and we without addressing the root of the problems, we are merely putting a bandaid on the cut finger, and ignoring the penetrating trauma to the abdomen.

  29. What will Universal Healthcare accomplish here in the United States?

    40 million currently uninsured Americans will have access to preventative health care, not just emergency care (which the taxpayers cover)

    60% of bankruptcies (which are due to medical expenses) would be avoided.

    American businesses would not have the additional (and continually rising) expense of providing heath care benefits (remember that this is one of the primary reasons that Big Auto got in trouble with their retirement benefits).

    Small businesses would not have to compete by providing health care benefits.

    Individuals, freed of the fear from losing health care benefits, would have more options to leave jobs to begin more entrepreneurial pursuits.

  30. hansgruber says:

    Funny how these comments sound like healthcare is going to be free, well its not.

    Your wonderful government, namely the Secretary of Health & Human Services will decide what “affordable” healthcare is and what it costs.

    We know what not affordable healthcare is is:
    In the Democrats’ reconciliation bill – actually an amendment to the Senate-passed health bill – a high-cost health plan is defined as costing more than $10,200 for an individual or $27,500 for a family, including worker and employer contributions to flexible spending or health savings accounts.

    Although the tax is to be imposed on insurers, the effects are likely to trickle down to consumers. Insurers or employers might tinker with benefits, for example, by increasing deductibles to reduce premium costs to below the threshold

    Democratic healthcare reform would expand insurance coverage in America by requiring people to obtain it.
    That’s right. The healthcare reform bill would mandate that most US citizens and legal residents purchase “minimal essential coverage” for themselves and their dependents

    An insurance-less person would have to pony up whichever is greater: $695 for each uninsured family member, up to a maximum of $2,085; or 2.5 percent of household income.

    The cutoff level would be an income of four times the federal poverty level. For one person, that’s about $44,000 a year. For a family of four, the comparable figure is about $88,000.

    The formula is pretty complicated. Basically, though, people who make three or four times the poverty level would get enough federal money so that they would not have to pay more than about 10 percent of their income for a decent health insurance package.

    People who make less would have to pay a smaller slice of their income for coverage. For instance, individuals who make about $14,000, and four-person families with incomes of about $29,000, would not have to pay more than 3 to 4 percent of their incomes for insurance.
    And those who make even less – under 133 percent of the federal poverty level – would be able to enroll in a newly expanded Medicaid program.

    So it’s not free

    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2010/0321/Health-care-reform-bill-101-Who-will-pay-for-reform

  31. firemannotfirefighter says:

    40 million currently uninsured Americans will have access to preventative health care, not just emergency care (which the taxpayers cover)

    Funny you mention that taxpayers cover emergency care, because who do you think will be covering their preventative care? Does Government Run Health Preventative Healthcare just fall out of the sky? The answer is TAXPAYERS! How many of those 40 Million are here illegally (Go to Europe illegally, or any country that offers socialized medicine illegally, and try to get your free access. See what happens.) How many of those 40 Million are eligible for benefits but are not signed up for one reason or another? How about how many have healthcare offered at their work place, but they opt out?

    60% of bankruptcies (which are due to medical expenses) would be avoided.

    So less than 1 million bankruptcies would be avoided? In a population greater than 311 Million, even if ALL filed bankruptcies were healthcare related (Note less than 1.5 Million bankruptcies in the US last year) the percentage of people as compared to the overall population is so minute. Nice try, I do like how you gave PART (The dramatic 60%) of the statistic, but left out the actual number of people.

    Individuals, freed of the fear from losing health care benefits, would have more options to leave jobs to begin more entrepreneurial pursuits.

    WOW, it just got REALLLLLLYLYYYYYYY deep in here. If this was the case, then why hasn’t the entrepreneurial spirit helped those on medicaid, or unemployment? Try getting your facts in places OTHER than a campaign flyer.

  32. “Funny how these comments sound like healthcare is going to be free”

    Clearly you are reading different comments than everyone else.

  33. hansgruber says:

    Kluw-Looking at the 2007 numbers:
    USA 310 Million Pop $6,096 per person
    Canada 33 Million $3,173 per person
    Norway 4.6 Million $4,080 per person
    France 40 Million $3,040 per person
    Greece 10 Million $2,179 per person (This country is near bankrupt)
    Luxemburg 500,000 $5,178 per person

    I then included what the first lady referred to as “Barack has led by example. When we took our trip to Africa and visited his home country in Kenya, we took a public HIV test”:
    Kenya 40 Million $86

    In 2007, it looks like the more modern countries spend more on healthcare and generally the higher the population, the more money is spent per person.

    Although only having to spend $86 a year on is tempting, I’ll pass on the modern Kenyan healthcare system.

    http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0934556.html

  34. hans – what are those numbers meant to demonstrate? What I see is that the US spends way more per capita than any other country except, perhaps, Luxemburg (which kind of blows the population-based rationale for why our costs are so high)

  35. hansgruber says:

    Beer-You are smarter than that.

  36. firemannotfirefighter says:

    Hans, you sure about that?

  37. hans – its a good thing you aren’t in research. Let’s arrange your list by per capita expenditures

    USA 310 Million Pop $6,096 per person
    Luxemburg 500,000 $5,178 per person
    Norway 4.6 Million $4,080 per person
    Canada 33 Million $3,173 per person
    France 40 Million $3,040 per person
    Greece 10 Million $2,179 per person (This country is near bankrupt)

    The second highest per capita is the lowest population. The third highest per capita is the 2nd lowest population. And the fourth highest is lower in population than the 5 highest.

    Your conclusion is unsupportable…..apparently you ARE that stupid.

  38. Let me try to simplify it for you by putting in rankings

    1 – 1
    6 – 2
    5 – 3
    3 – 4
    2 – 5
    4 – 6

    Aside from the US, none of the countries support your conclusion.

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