Swedish Left looks to halt privatised healthcare

Sweden's Left Party has set its sights on stopping the privatisation of Sweden’s largely publicly-funded healthcare system.

Swedish Left looks to halt privatised healthcare

In a campaign unveiled on Wednesday and christened “The World’s Best Medical Care,” the Left Party warns that privatising the nation’s healthcare would create enormous problems, reduce democracy and transparency, and increase the risk of misplaced priorities.

Party leader Lars Ohly claimed the root of the many problems associated with privatisation lie with healthcare providers who increasingly chase profits.

The party therefore seeks to limit profit as a driving force in the Swedish healthcare system.

“More and more of the Swedish healthcare system is owned by private equity firms whose only motivation is profit,” Ohly said at the Left Party conference on Wednesday.

The Left Party ultimately seeks to abolish Sweden’s freedom of choice law (Lagen om valfrihet – LOV), a law in effect since January 2009 that encourages increased competition in public procurement and has paved the way for more private companies to deliver services previously carried out by public agencies.

The Left also wants to tighten laws on tax evasion.

According to the party, the venture capitalists who own private healthcare companies often tamper with the interest costs and interest incomes to avoid paying taxes. Large sums then disappear into tax havens.

The party also warned of an increase in private healthcare insurance, claiming that it threatens to erode the common financing of the healthcare system.

“The Swedish healthcare system so far functions well, but our campaign is meant to prevent a development where more and more healthcare is sold out and we ultimately get a healthcare determined by the size of your wallet,” Ohly said.

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How Sweden plans to digitalize healthcare

The Swedish government is investing in digitalization of its 1177 Healthcare Guide with the aim of improving accessibility.

How Sweden plans to digitalize healthcare
Today it's possible to find advice about health problems and treatment on the 1177 website. Photo: Claudio Bresciani / TT

The government on Thursday announced the decision to grant 33.5 million kronor to the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKL) to develop the 1177 Healthcare Guide (Vårdguiden), a website where people can find out information about different healthcare issues. 

“We hope that this will benefit all patients in the country,” Minister for Health and Social Affairs Lena Hallengren told reporters at a press conference.

She said that Swedish healthcare needed to become more accessible and that more digital options will be introduced to the 1177 Healthcare Guide, including for example the possibility to communicate via video calls.

Another aspect of the plan is the introduction of digital booking, and the possibility for patients to keep track of their referrals online.

Healthcare in Sweden is organized at a regional level and in some areas it is already possible to carry out an online doctor's visit, either via a chat function or a video call.

But the investment would be used to “weave together different functions”, the spokesperson for SKL's healthcare department said. 

It will remain possible to contact 1177 by phone as well, something which would be particularly important for groups which are less likely to turn to digital solutions, Hallengren said.

READ ALSO: What to do if you need a sick day in Sweden


healthcare – (en) sjukvård

accessible – tillgänglig

online doctor's visit – (ett) nätläkarbesök

patient – (en) patient

doctor – (en) läkare

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