What can we really learn from Denmark?


Bernie Sanders says the U.S. should be more like Denmark. However, as a Danish citizen, I believe that Denmark should be more like the United States. In this post, I’ll clarify a myth about my country’s healthcare system..

“Health care in Denmark is universal, free of charge and high in quality.” – Bernie Sanders in 2013

Myth: Healthcare in Denmark is universal, free of charge and of high quality. Everybody is covered as a right of citizenship. The Danish healthcare system is popular, with patient satisfaction much higher than in the United States.

Fact: First of all, healthcare in Denmark is not free of charge. Only certain kinds of healthcare are funded by the taxpayers. If somebody breaks an arm, your income tax money funds the treatment. But if you break a tooth, you’ll get the bill (Borger.dk). How is it free if someone else pays the bill, eh?

Secondly, the quality of the healthcare can be called into question. Ever since the establishment of the Danish Regions, we’ve seen increasing bureaucratization, where administrative officials and well-educated white-collar workers, who don’t necessarily have a background in medical education, are hired and placed in control of the system. This is camouflaged as ‘efficiency’, while it is in fact simply a massive bureaucracy based on control, endless documentation, checklists, and records. The introduction of hundreds of standards and indicators, as well as costly, stressful, and time-consuming accreditation system based on the Danish Quality Model (DDKM) has further expanded the red tape. Back in September 2014, a Danish TV channel revealed that a nurse, Dorthe Lyngby, spent 18% of her working hours on patient contact, while 53% went to documentation and registration. 29% of the time went to miscellaneous stuff, including meetings, breaks and transport around the hospital (TV2.dk). How is that quality?

Thirdly, rather than letting the patient decide for himself what treatment he wants to receive, the government has restricted this to only cover the kinds of healthcare that is favored by those in charge. The high taxes make it too expensive to use a private hospital, as both the patient and the private hospital are taxed. This it might explain why private hospitals make up only 15 percent of the healthcare system in Denmark, due to the lower economic incentives (US Commercial Service).

Rather than expecting taxpayers to fund one another’s medical treatment, the Danish government should instead gradually lower the public funding of healthcare, in exchange of income tax cuts. This will gradually turn Denmark into a prosperity state, which is certainly preferable to being a welfare state.

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Christopher Trung Paulsen

Christopher Trung Paulsen is a web developer advocating for liberty in his spare time. He is also a member of the editorial board of the magazine Liber published by the largest political youth organisation in Denmark, Venstres Ungdom.

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