The government of Finland collapsed Friday due to the rising cost of universal health care and the prime minister's failure to enact reforms to the system.
Prime Minister Juha Sipila and the rest of the cabinet resigned after the governing coalition failed to pass reforms in parliament to the country's regional government and health services, the Wall Street Journal reports. Finland faces an aging population, with around 26 percent of its citizens expected to be over 65 by the year 2030, an increase of 5 percent from today.
Sipila's reforms "intended to remove power from the 295 municipalities that currently oversee health and social care, and place responsibility within a leaner, more efficient system of 18 elected regional authorities," according to the Journal. The prime minister also wanted patients to be able to choose from a range of public and private providers.
Sipila said "there's no other way for Finland to succeed" besides these reforms, which could have led to $3.4 billion in savings for the government.
As an increasing number of people live longer in retirement, the cost of providing pension and healthcare benefits can rise. Those increased costs are paid for by taxes collected from of the working-age population – who make up a smaller percentage of the population than in decades past.
In 2018, those aged 65 or over made up 21.4% of Finland's population, the fourth highest after Germany, Portugal, Greece, and Italy, according to Eurostat.
Finland's welfare system is also generous in its provisions, making it relatively expensive. Attempts at reform have plagued Finnish governments for years.
Reuters reports that soaring treatment costs and longer life spans have particularly affected Nordic countries.
"Nordic countries, where comprehensive welfare is the cornerstone of the social model, have been among the most affected," according to Reuters. "But reform has been controversial and, in Finland, plans to cut costs and boost efficiency have stalled for years."
Similar problems are bedeviling Sweden and Denmark, two other countries frequently held up as models to follow on health care. Finland's crisis in particular comes as calls for universal health care have grown louder among Democrats in the United States.
Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I., Vt.) "Medicare for all" proposal would cost the U.S. over $32 trillion over ten years, according to an analysis by the Mercatus Center. It would also require enormous tax increases as "a doubling of all currently projected federal individual and corporate income tax collections would be insufficient to finance the added federal costs of the plan."
Another Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.), has called for eliminating private health insurance, although a spokesperson suggested she is open to multiple paths to "Medicare for all."
Self-described democratic socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) has also called for "Medicare for all."
The Kaiser Family Foundation found that 58 percent of Americans oppose "Medicare for all" if told it would eliminate private health insurance plans, and 60 percent oppose it if it requires higher taxes.