Finland Passes Universal Health-Care Overhaul 15 Years in Making

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Finland’s parliament voted in favor of the government’s social and health-care reform, capping a 15-year process that saw several failed attempts to overhaul the Nordic nation’s universal health services and even toppled a government.

Lawmakers in Helsinki voted 105 to 77 on Wednesday to pass the legislative package that shifts the provision of health services to counties from roughly 300 municipalities across the country. In the new model, funding for the services comes from the state.

The overhaul is an attempt to address challenges arising from Finland’s aging population and deteriorating public finances. It targets reducing health inequalities across the country and ensuring better access to treatment.

Finland had higher unmet needs for medical checks or treatment than the European Union average in 2018, according to Eurostat. Its workforce has been shrinking for a decade, swelling the ranks of pensioners who on average use more health services. Some say the plans provides little incentive for the counties to keep costs in check.

The reform was first set in motion in 2006, but several proposals have run into constitutional challenges. In 2019, then Prime Minister Juha Sipila suddenly resigned less than two months before a general election when it became clear his proposal would not pass the constitutional barrier.

In addition to public health care, Finland has a number of private clinics that tend to offer paying clients faster access to doctors.

The laws passed on Wednesday will come into force gradually by January 2023.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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