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Andersson: Left Alliance wants gov’t social and health care overhaul plan to fail

Left Alliance Chair Li Andersson says that Finland’s system of social and health care needs reform, but that the current centre-right government’s plan to renew and consolidate administration is the wrong way to go about it.

Li Andersson appeared on Yle's Ykkösaamu programme Saturday morning. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

The Left Alliance, the most left-minded political party in Finland to enjoy significant support, is opposed to the government’s proposal of a new system to steer the country’s extended network of social and health care services. Party chair Li Andersson said as much in a Saturday morning television interview.

“I hope that the government won’t succeed in moving it forward. Instead, they should reintroduce the social and health care reform proposal to Parliament for further consideration. The hope of our party is that the sections on forced incorporation and outsourcing will collapse,” she said.

Andersson says her party supporters are unhappy with government plans to introduce ”freedom of choice” to the model, which would make it possible for people to choose between public, private or third sector service providers in future. 

“The public sector would be forced to break up its existing service packages if freedom of choice goes through,” she said.

Three reasons to reject the plan

The Left Alliance leader says the current model has three structural factors that recommend keeping services under the responsibility of bigger players.

“Current social and health care centre complexes are able to offer a comprehensive selection of services that small and medium-sized private business will automatically be unable to provide. The second is that those businesses with money for marketing their services and investing in central locations, for instance, will benefit much more under the proposed model than enterprises without that kind of money.”

“A third factor is the probability that people currently using occupational health services will continue to use the same services they are currently using, in terms of social and health care centres too, so they will be listed as customers in businesses where they are already customers,” Andersson said.

Decision-making should be regional

The Left Alliance proposes that the reform transfer the administration of social and health care services to Finland’s 19 regions. Finland’s current regional boundaries reflect the historical provinces, which loosely represent certain dialects and culture.

The party launched its municipal election campaign on Friday, February 3. One of the platform points the party outlined says that democratically-elected regional councils should have decision-making power over social and health care services.

“If there is a need to use private services, it should be implemented in a controlled way, not with uncontainable privatization, which is where the government model in practice leads.” 

Education and benefits non-negotiable

The Left Alliance is already looking ahead to the next parliamentary elections in 2019, too.

A January TNS opinion poll for the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat suggests the party is neck-and-neck with the Finns Party in terms of voter support, both vying for fifth place with about 8.5 percent backing.

Andersson says the party is not prepared to make any more cuts to Finland’s education or social benefits systems.

“I consider it completely out of the question that the next government would enact further cuts to education,” she said on Saturday. She said she would find a way to finance both with tax reforms.

On the SDP and the presidency

She also commented on Saturday’s top news item during her interview: Antti Rinne’s election victory to continue as her kindred Social Democratic Party’s leader.

“Their choice didn’t come as a surprise,” she said, “It’s a message that the Social Democrats are satisfied with the status quo.”

Her interviewer also asked her if she will be representing her party in the 2018 presidential elections. 

“I don’t know,” she answered.