As written in an earlier blog, the new Norwegian government, led by the Conservative Party, has a goal of eliminating the long health queues in the Norwegian health system. The previous blog discussed the policy that would see all health expenditures of both public and private treatments be covered by public funding. In this blog the topic will be the government’s second policy instrument: the use of user charges.
Some examples of the user charges in the Norwegian healthcare system today:
- Consultation with a general practitioner / emergency services, 140 or 235 NOK, depending on day or night.
- Radiographs, 224 NOK.
- Consultation with a specialist at the hospital, 315 NOK.
Example of other treatments that are currently given in public hospitals, but that the patient must pay extended user charges for:
- Sterilization men, 1 268 NOK.
- Medically assisted reproduction, 15 621 NOK.
The new government says that the today’s user charges are antisocial and do not contribute to neither reduced social inequalities or to help patients with major medical expenses and low incomes. The Conservative Party wants to do a full review of which patient groups that should be prioritized and how much patients themselves must pay to various types of treatment. They hope to manage this prioritization of the growing health queues by using both higher, new types of and different grades of user charges. For example will patients with difficulties that are not directly hazardous to health, such as disfiguring varicose veins and snoring that is not harmful, be prepared to pay more for their treatments. This is done so that people with severe diseases do not have to pay high user charges for expensive treatment or operations.
The other side of politics is opposed to the proposal of using user charges for reducing hospital queues. They fear this will lead to people not going to a doctor or quits treatment, not for medical reasons, but because of insufficient money. This will give discrimination determined by people’s economy. The Conservative Party’s policy is argued to be an excuse to fund the increasing expenditures to treatments in private establishments with in general higher user charges. This would be an antisocial distribution policy: taxing health to give wealthy people tax cuts.
In Norway we have always been afraid of inequality. The idea that everyone should have the same opportunities is a good idea, but some people will always try to exploit the system to their own good on behalf of others. Maybe it is time to think a bit more cynical. To increase the user charge for non-health hazardous treatments so that people with serious deceases can get help faster and cheaper, sounds like a good policy to me. And then if there are some people who absolutely needs to sort out smaller non-health hazardous problems, let them pay a bit extra for doing so.