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Finns hit back at health care criticism from Trump’s ex-UN ambassador

The Twitter showdown kicked off over tweets between American presidential contender Bernie Sanders and former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

nikki haley
Nikki Haley, America's former ambassador to the United Nations. Image: Justin Lane / EPA-EFE

Finnish Twitter reared its head on Thursday to school former UN ambassador Nikki Haley on the nature of the Finnish health care system and how it compares to its American counterpart.

This week, the former US ambassador to the UN and Republican governor of South Carolina took to Twitter to slam the Finnish healthcare system. "Ask them how their health care is. You won’t like their answer," she claimed.

Haley was responding to a two-week-old tweet by US Senator and 2020 presidential contender Bernie Sanders, who favourably compared the cost of having a baby in Finland to costs in the US.

"In the US it costs, on average, $12,000 (€10,550) to have a baby. In Finland it costs $60 (€53)," Sanders wrote.

Ordinary Finns were quick to defend their healthcare system, particularly maternity services against Haley.

It remains unclear what Haley’s specific criticism of Finnish healthcare was, although she did subsequently retweet an article about the Finnish government’s collapse over its failed bid to steer home an expansive package of social and health care reforms (known as sote).

Haley’s cryptic tweet woke up Finnish Twitter and set off a series of counterpunches from Finns online, including Finland’s ambassador to the UN, Kai Sauer.

In a lengthy rebuttal, Sauer shared facts about Finland’s healthcare system, writing, "Maternal mortality is the lowest in the world in Finland [according to the World Health Organisation]."

Sauer also brought up a recent UN report naming Finland the happiest country in the world for the second year running.

"Apologies for the delayed reply, but we were out celebrating our rank as the happiest country of the world," he wrote.

Finland v United States

It’s not clear what Bernie Sanders’ claims on relative costs for giving birth in Finland and the US were based on, but a 2013 report by the National Partnership for Women and Families found that the average cost of a natural birth for American women with employer-provided health insurance was €11,000 ($12,520).

As Finnish healthcare is provided by municipalities, it’s difficult to pin down national average costs for giving birth, but a patient charges list from southern Finland health provider HUS gives a daily cost of €48.90 ($55.63), based on the assumption that women will spend at least a day in hospital giving birth.

Meanwhile, Finland’s birth rate has continued to decline, reaching an all-time low in 2017. Some researchers believe the cost of raising a child may be a factor that contributes to the low rate.

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