In the post “Circle Round”, I asked other practitioners with disabilities to join me in learning about different types of socioeconomic systems and how they have been implemented in other nations. Currently in many nations around the world, people are gathering in occupations and protests over these issues. It would like these series of posts to be our opportunity to think about important aspects of society which include: trade, knowledge, interpersonal relationships, culture, health, safety, and natural resources (air, water, food). These are very broad topics so we’ll take each one a step at a time.
Healthcare is an important issue for people with chronic and even temporary disabilities or illness. I want to interview Pagans from some a few of the sixteen nations that participate in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and have some form of multi-payer or national healthcare. OECD provides a lot of research and statistics so that’s why I’m focusing on those nations. America is going through a time of change where the citizens are rethinking what we want society to be like. The interviews are about more than just healthcare though. We’ll find out what type of government some of these nations have and how people of different religions treat each other.
If you would rather write your own guest post, let me know. I’ll send you some ideas about what to include.
Here are the nations I would like to interview Pagans from or include guest posts from:
Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cuba, Finland, Denmark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, The United Kingdom. Japan and Taiwan also participate in the OECD and have a national healthcare type system. I understand the chances of finding a Pagan there is slim but if anyone has lived there long enough to understand their healthcare system please contact me if you are disabled or not.
If you would like to participate, please email me at tara.miller21 (at) gmail.com or leave a message in the comments.
IMAGE: View from Linda Ursin’s home in Norway. Used with permission.
National Government: Constitutional Monarchy
The Government, which serves as the executive power, is derived from the Storting (Norwegian national assembly) and is headed by the Prime Minister. Formally, it is the King who asks the majority party to form a government or a viable coalition. As state tasks have increased, legislative power has been delegated from the Storting to the Government and often down the chain of command to the individual government ministries.
Local Government: “Norway is divided into 19 counties and 430 municipalities (2008). The powers of the county and municipal councils for self-government have been delegated from the State, and are set out in legislation, not in the Constitution.”
Elections are held at all levels of government every four years. (norway.org)
Public Health System: The public health system comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health and Care Services, which is responsible for devising and monitoring national health policy. (norway.org)
“Norway has had a single-payer national health insurance system since 1966. The National Insurance Act guaranteed citizens universal access to all forms of medical care. Norway’s health system is funded by progressive income tax, and from block grants from central government, with 8.9% of GDP being spent on health care, and in 1998 the per capita expense was $2,425-US.
Patients are free to choose their own physician and hospital, however, registration with local GP’s who act as gatekeeper, will begin in 2001. Patients are responsible for co-pays for some physician visits, approximately $15. Patients are also responsible for co-pays for prescription drugs, up to $216 per year. Once that level of expense has been reached, prescription drugs are covered at 100%. All hospital care is covered at 100%.
Hospital physicians have fixed salaries. GP’s have either fixed salaries or fee-for-service agreements. All medical and nursing education is free. The infant mortality rate in Norway is 4 per 1,000 live births, and life expectancy at birth is at 75.5 years for men and 81.3 years for women.” (pnhp.org)
IMAGE: Linda Ursin is a Visenda from Soknedal, Norway. Photo used with permission.
Linda Ursin and I met on Google+. She runs the on-line store Heksebua which means Witch’s Shed. She lives in the region some of my ancestors are from so by corresponding, I get to make a new friend and learn more about Norway. I’m glad she took some time to answer questions about what the government and healthcare is like from a citizen’s point of view.
Masery: Where do you live in Norway?
Linda Ursin: I live in a small village about 40 miles south of Trondheim, which is the nearest city. The village is called Soknedal, and has about 500 people.
Masery: What is the land (geography) like?
Linda: The area is a mix of mountains, forests and farm land. The trees here are mainly Birch, Alder and Spruce. Anyone who’d like a closer look, can check http://heksebua.com/solvang.
Masery: Were you born in Norway?
Linda: I wasn’t born in Norway, but nearby. I was born and raised in Northern Sweden, in a town called Lycksele. I moved to Norway in July of 1999 with my husband, who’s Norwegian.
Masery: How long have you been a Visenda?
Linda: I’ve been a Vísenda, or I’ve used that title at least, since 2005. But I started my path back in 1994. Back then I used the title witch or wise woman. I still use those, when I prefer not to explain. The word Vísenda means both wise woman, and female scientist/researcher. Something I find very fitting to who I am. I also don’t want to assume the title of Völva until I feel comfortable doing so, and that may take many years. My opinion is that a Völva has a lot of knowledge and experience in Norse mythology, magic and related things.
Masery: What drew you to that path?
Linda: I’ve been drawn to the Norse since I was a kid, but I didn’t think of it as a spiritual think back then. It was just a keen interest in the history of my people. From 1994 to 2003 I was an eclectic Pagan, and didn’t want to associate myself with any deity. Then Freyja hit me upside the head with a 2×4, so to speak. I had a sudden revelation that this was my path, and this has later been confirmed.
Masery: According to the website Norway: Official Site in the US “Norway has an official Protestant State Church based on the Evangelical-Lutheran religion. Although there is no separation of Church and State, all inhabitants have the right to exercise their religion freely in accordance with a 1964 amendment to the Constitution. Eight out of ten ethnic Norwegians are members of the State Church of Norway.” However, only about 10% actually attend services regularly. How has being a Vísenda affected your relationship with people? Have you ever faced harsh criticism or discrimination?
Linda: I’ve never met any adverse reactions. Not here and not in Sweden either. The people here are very open and friendly, and your spirituality is your business. There are very few judgmental people here. Even though this is a very traditionally Christian village (i.e. the church is full on Sundays, even if most don’t call themselves religious) everyone has accepted me as I am, and shown a sincere interest in what I do. I’ve been open about my path since the start. I’ve never been in the proverbial closet, so I don’t know what it’s like to have to hide who you are.
Masery: In America, sometimes people don’t know their neighbors. What is your neighborhood like?
Linda: I know everyone of my immediate neighbors. In the places we lived before , we knew nobody. I wasn’t used to that, and neither was he. So we didn’t like it. So when we moved here, we made a conscious effort to get to know our neighbors. But I’m sure we would have known them anyway, since the second day we lived here, one of them came to our door to invite us over for coffee and waffles.
Masery: Do you have children? If so do they attend a public or private school?
Linda: We have a daughter, who’s four years old. As most children in Norway, she’ll be attending public school when that time comes. The public school in Scandinavia is very good, I went to public school myself. And besides, most of the private schools in Norway are run by Christians or Muslims.
Masery: If someone where to become unemployed, how would they seek help?
Linda: If someone here gets unemployed, they file for unemployment benefits at the local social welfare office. They get 62,4 % of their wages before taxes for an initial maximum of 104 weeks. This period can then be extended.
Masery: Are there private or religious charities?
Linda: There are numerous religious and private charities here, as elsewhere.
Masery: Do you think you have adequate health care?
Linda: We have a public health care system in place, which in general works well. Everyone has the right to health care, regardless of income. You only pay an initial fee for each visit of $17, and $34 if it’s a specialist. If you choose private health care, the prices are higher. Dentistry is another matter. A regular checkup costs you a minimum of $120. But should you need surgery for something, it’s a lot cheaper here, than in the US. Let’s take a knee surgery as an example (I’ve had two).
You pay for the visit to your GP, then for a visit to the specialist, and any follow ups. That’s it. Not a dime for the stay in the hospital, or the surgery itself.
We also have a limit on how much you should pay in such fees during a year. After you reach $312, you get the rest of the year’s fees for free. This only applies to doctor’s appointments and certain medications.
The health care here is of a good quality as well. Waiting for procedures is a problem, but there’s and option to choose another facility. There are of course occasions when the system fails, but I guess that’s true for any system.
Masery: How much of your pay does the national government take in taxes? Are you taxed by local government, too?
Linda: We’re taxed by both the central government and the local government. In total, it’s roughly 30 % of the monthly pay check.
Masery: What is your opinion of local government?
Linda: In general, I think they do an OK job, exceps for efficiency and costs when it comes to administration. I prefer to stay out of political discussions, since I see politicians as people who think differently.
Masery: What is your opinion of the Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and the current Storting?
Linda: They do an OK job as well, but they’d do a better job if they had true majority. The constant compromises waters everything down to mush.
Masery: Norway was ranked the best country to live in by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)? Would you agree with this assessment? If so, why do you think Norway is a great place to live?
Linda: I would agree. The people are great, the nature is spectacular, we have good health care, day care and schools etc. One thing I’d like to be improved, is the possibility for one parent to stay home. Theoretically this exists, but not since you wish to provide the best possible environment for your child. That takes so much money that on regular wages, both have to work. On that single point, things were easier thirty years ago.
Note: Norwegian parents have the right to a paid leave of absence during the first year of a child’s life. 10 weeks of parental leave are reserved for fathers to encourage men to participate in care-giving responsibilities.