InDepth – Sweden – Post #3: Medical Care, Transportation

Old town Stockholm

This week we will concentrate on two major costs in the family budget in the US and compare how much Sweden pays for the same thing.


Medical Care

In the US
The average cost per family for a year of health insurance is $15,400.
The average out-of-pocket annual household expense is $5,000.
Medicine alone accounts for about $1,400 per person per year.
The total US medical costs per person annually is about $11,000.

In Sweden
Medical and hospital care are basically free until age 20. After then, doctor visits cost Swedes $10 to $32, or up to $38 for specialists. After people meet a $119 annual deductible, all care is free. Moreover, medicine is free after a $239 yearly deductible. Drugs are the same price at all pharmacies, so people needn’t shop around for the best price.
The total Swedish medical cost per person annually are about $400.

Transportation

In the US
About 88% of all households own a car with a total annual cost per car of $7,500. The total per capita cost figures out to be about $6,600. About 5% of the US population use public transportation. About 1% of daily trips are by bicycle.

In Sweden

About 40% of all households own a car with a total annual cost of about $8,000. The total per capita cost is about $3,200. About 28% of the Swedish population use public transportation. 12% of all trips are taken by bicycles.

On public transportation government subsidies vary. For example, people pushing baby strollers or carriages in some cities (such as Stockholm) ride for free on the buses. In others (such as Gothenburg), retired Swedes pay nothing, except during rush hours.


We have a lot to learn from the Swedes when it comes to both of these categories. Universal medical care allows the average Swede to pretty much take for granted getting sick or injured. In the US we struggle whenever we need medical care. Too many go bankrupt evey year due to medical costs.

The cost of transportation in the US is about three times the cost of Sweden. One of the primary reasons for that is that Swedes depend more on public transportation and bicycles to get from one place to another.

4 comments

  1. We will address our medical costs when all political parties and health care industry groups are willing to come to the table and make reasonable compromises. That point in time appears to be very far down the road. This issue needs to driven from the bottom up. We will have to see many more families bankrupted before there is enough public support for a complete overhaul of our healthcare system. What will never happen is a reasonable solution driven by pure capitalism. That has not happened anywhere else in the world and we will not be the exception.

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  2. Thanks for the thoughts Fred. If you look at it the US is currently about 60% of US healthcare is already publically funded and that 60% could actually cover insurance for everyone if as you say the healthcare industry were to make just moderate compromises. If people could just understand that it would be easier to accomplish.

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    1. Thanks for the question Mitch and welcome to RJsCorner. As I insinuated in my reply to Fred, The US pays more per capita taxes for healthcare than Sweden does for their entire population, and we only cover about 60% of the population. I will get more into Swedish taxes in the final post on this series in a couple of weeks. The amounts shown in this post refer to personal expenses and don’t cover public costs for either country.

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