Marianne Skogh is an 83-year old Swedish woman who suffered from spinal stenosis.

Skogh waited over a year to see a specialist under Sweden’s public health care system, only to be told that, though the pain and numbness in her legs was something that could be treated, she was too old to undergo that treatment.

Skogh is particular (sic) upset that county health officials didn’t inform her about options for seeking a second opinion or about options for private care in the area.

But Anders Olai, a spinal specialist at the department of orthopedics at Linköping University Hospital, said that it is not common practice to refer patients to other doctors.

“We have no policy of directing people to another doctor for a second opinion. If someone is dissatisfied with one doctor’s assessment, they can turn to the county in order to try and get another diagnosis,” he told Östgöta Correspondenten.

After suffering for five years, Ms. Skogh became concerned that she might lose her ability to walk and end up in a wheelchair. Rather than risking another year-long wait to see a specialist, she visited a private hospital and paid over $17,000 out-of-pocket for the surgery the public system told her she was ineligible for. She is now living a much more normal life.

Less than a month after the surgery, she is living pain-free and says the price she paid for private treatment was worth regaining her quality of life.

“There are thousands of people in my situation. With a meager pension, they don’t have the ability to do what I did. It’s important that they receive assistance in preserving their right to a dignified life,” she told Expressen …

… The [whole] episode has left Skogh questioning the value she received from all the money she’s paid in taxes over the years.

“I can understand that the county feels it is expensive to ‘fix’ us elderly, there more and more of us, (sic) but in general, I am healthy,” she told Östgöta Correspondenten.

“We end up paying for healthcare for younger people, but we don’t get anything ourselves.”

If Sweden had taken steps to reduce overall health care spending in the country by eliminating “inefficient” procedures, Marianne Skogh might not have made the cut. Americans losing the option to make their own medical choices is, and ought to be, a top-of-mind concern for all those paying attention to the health care debate.

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