Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has landed in some hot-as-a-sauna water by criticizing Finland’s health-care system.
It all started when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted about how much more expensive it is to have a child in the United States than in Finland.
Haley decided to weigh in. First, she said that Sanders should not be the one talking about how much more expensive it is for women in the United States, because he is not a woman.
That’s an argument that will not be unpacked here, for Haley then went on to implicitly critique Finland’s health-care system.
There are, of course, arguments to be made against pointing to Finland, a country with roughly the population of Minnesota, as a model for anything in the United States, a country with the population of Minnesota — 5.6 million — plus about 322 million more. One could say that Finland’s population is too small and homogeneous to serve as a model for the United States; one could say that Finland is not required to spend as much as the United States in other areas; one could skip all of this and head to a sauna. Any of those might have been controversial, but not quite so much as this.
For Haley implied that Finns are not happy with their health-care system and that, if asked, they would say as much. But the Finns did answer, and, oh, they did not say as much.
Finland was indeed ranked the happiest country in the world on Wednesday; contributing factors to Finns’ happiness included their stated sense of social support and healthy life expectancy.
But happiness is not the only ranking the Finns are topping. A Global Burden of Disease study published last year found that Finland had one of the best health-care systems in the world. According to that study, Finland, Switzerland and Iceland have the best quality and most egalitarian systems, and, of the top nations, Finland’s health care had improved the most in recent years.
According to the same study, the United States had the world’s most expensive health-care system. U.S. News and World Report declared Finland to have the best public health-care system. In a 2014 study on infant mortality in the United States and Europe, Finland had the lowest rate and the United States had the highest.
Finland’s permanent representative to the United Nations, not content to let those studies speak for themselves, also pointed out to Haley that Finland’s maternal mortality is, according to the World Health Organization, the lowest in the world and that, per the OECD, Finland has the second lowest mortality from cancer of European Union countries.
What did Haley mean? Did she just walk into a diplomatic trap, some wondered?
A spokeswoman for Haley did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding what, exactly, Haley meant to imply about the health-care system of Finland, of all places.