It looks as if our prime minister, when travelling abroad, is surfing a little on a reputation of Norway, the kind of clichés about the Scandinavian welfare state, that we have free health care etc.
It is to a certain extent true, but the pressure and the movement towards paying for everything has been going on at least since the 80s.
This applies to services for everyone, and especially, I think, for foreigners, and I must add that I don’t know too much about racism in the public system in general, but it exists, I believe both when it comes to rules and regulations and how they are interpreted.
Much has changed here with the advent of populism, we’ve had a far right government for seven years now, and the amount of news about the system is so high it is difficult to follow all changes that are made to it.
Many of the changes, I believe, do harm to democracy and is decided in undemocratic ways.
In healthcare, for children I think basically everything is free – if you take your kid to the doctor, the dentist or anywhere else in health care I don’t think you pay for it.
For grownups not much is free, but many things are subsidised. You pay like 20 dollars for a normal doctor’s consultation, and sometimes you will have to pay something for bandages used etc. Being treated in a hospital I think is basically free except for some things like bandages in certain cases, but there was a case in the news just now where a hospital (public) had sent a bill of around 25 000 dollars to someone without a passport staying here who had to be treated. The political pressure is still in the same directiion – to collect the money and «give away» less, it is often as simple as this. On some occasions the state acts crooked, I think, they act more like an unsympathetic businessman, and there is regularly a question for me whether both public employees and some politicians understand the rules, what rules are, basically, or the system at all, and it has also become more common for users of the system, not only in healthcare, but in general, to try to quarrel with the system, with not much of a thought about rules that apply, more about what the quarrelsome think is ok in any situation, also privately among friends or foes, or just what is possible to achieve. The kind of behaviour I would expect in a real fight, whether it was serious or not.
Remember also that the level of salaries is high in Norway, but a lot is and has been going on politically also concerning this.
Even if there is a lot left of the pretty good welfare system that we had, and I think also it has in some ways been expanded, there are also things that move in the other direction.
In many connections the public system in Norway didn’t usually take care of you actively if you were passive. There were rules and you had rights, but you normally had more success if you took care of your own business within the system and on the conditions made in the system, you took respnsibility for your own case, whether it was an health issue or something else that you had to deal with.
Not everybody thought like this, and I believe this is one of the reasons that the system hs changed. Some didn’t understand the system or any system, just quarrelled, sometimes with good reason, sometimes not. This is only a personal impression, I don’t know of any survey or statistics that says so, it exists, but I don’t axtually know to how great extent.
The key role in the health system was and is always your doctor, he is and especially was given the role of defining your problems in the system, and finding and making way for you when you needed it.
One example is, you need a «henvisning», actually a permit, from him or her to see a specialist, or if you need(ed) an operation, your doctor decides what to do, in cooperation with you, of course, and also tells the system what it needs to know.
I would be afraid if I didn’t have a doctor, who knew me and my problems and whom I could relate to. The last point is a normal advice too, from friends who work in the system, you need a good relation with your doctor, one who understands the basics of your situation.
If something happens to you, if you are in an accident or is about to die…I think emergency services or whatever it is called are really good, I have totally the best experience myself.
A lot of other functions I think also work well, but if you have a more vague or not so acute problem say in the weekend, you’re supposed to contact your doctor on Monday and take it from there instead of going to the emergency ward. If you chose to wait you usually had to wait for a while, but maybe some loud mouths has changed this a bit, I am not sure. I don’t usually go to Legevakten, emergency, unless I really have to, because of the waiting, and what occupies their time, I believe, are – the more acute cases.
When you come as far as the doctor they are always ok and professional as long as you are, I guess you can say, they are very decent and take you seriously even if you yourself don’ t know what is exactly the problem. But you really feel bad there may sometimes be a need to be insisting, they are always short of time and things can go a little fast – if you haven’t had time to ask all the important questions. On a normal appointment, prepare a little.
Most of this used to be reasonable, I think, as long as you knew how the system worked.
I say all this in the past tense, because the system is being pressured sometimes by incompetent voices from the outside, but I don’t know how incompetent and quite how the system reacts.
One thing in the public system is constantly worrying me, there are put up systems of anonymous reporting of fellow citizens, you can send a message to barnevernet (the child protection agency), Mattilsynet (food & animal control, also livestock and pets) and the tax collectors, if you believe that someone is cheating or doing something which you think is bad.
And it is done anonymously.
I know personally two people who have had to defend themselves against such accusations, with visits from the offices involved. In both cases it was bullshit, most likely neighbours who had opinions about the persons and their lives, perhaps. But the people who were…well, prosecuted, are not told who sent the message to the officials. The police or the courts are not involved if the barnevern etc don’t find blatantly illegal stuff, but the system still investigates the accusations if they find them plausible. I am not sure whether they also have instructions to do so in all cases, but the fact that you can report your neighbour anonymously must be in conflict with normal principles of law.