Despite cultural similarities, there are a few crucial differences between Norway on the one hand, and the U.S. and Southern Europe on the other, which affect their citizens in significant ways. One difference is that while youth in other countries currently face austerities and unemployment Norway’s economy is still going strong. The other difference is that there is a health care system here that actually works. I don’t say this to be a snooty European, but most people I’ve met agree on this. Public and the private healthcare here are both more affordable compared to the United States. (Many people are surprised by this fact, assuming private alternatives must be non-exiting or more expensive in countries with “socialized” healthcare.) On the other hand, the perception that the U.S. healthcare system is fraught with costly inefficiencies is pretty common among most Americans I’ve talked to, whether from right-leaning as well as left-leaning, young or old.
So it’s a big surprise to me that when they are searching for jobs, Norwegian Millennials view health insurance as an important perk. At least for as many as 70 percent of respondents in a survey carried out by the insurance firm Storebrand. Here where healthcare is funded over the tax bill and private hospitals cost a small fraction of the American equivalent, the existent healthcare system is apparently not good enough to its second youngest generation. Why?
If we look at some general traits among Millennials, we see the following characteristics:
The prevalence of insurance in general. Politician and physician Kjersti Toppe says they have grown up with a society where everything is insurable. I think we have seen similar among American Millennials, with this generation being more risk aversive than the older ones.
Eroding trust in government. Some politicans take this sentiment as a signal that this generation has less trust in the current universal healthcare system. Don’t think for a minute that this is a sign Norwegians want to rid its country of the system. The options discussed are merely questions of tweaking it to make it more efficient.
Media. Coverage of health care problems help undermine this trust further.
Work ethics. Young people want to work – just not within the traditional boundaries older generations are used to. Moreover, they want to nurture a lucrative career (another trans-Atlantic Millennial commonality). Hence they place a huge price on reducing sick leave and won’t wait for free operations even if the wait is not associated with risks, pain or major discomfort.
I doubt if Norway will ever rely as much on private health insurance as the U.S. does, but the two countries seem to be approaching a common midpoint. The U.S. growing more accepting of universalized ideas and the Norwegians opening up for more fragmented solutions.