How do I describe health care in the US without being too long or provoking heated political debate? I know this is off your original topic but since you are the original poster I won't feel like I'm hijacking your thread!
To start with our system costs more, both to individuals and other payers, and is way more complicated than what I understand of your system. For example. I'm one of the lucky ones as I'm covered by the company that I retired from a few years ago. I qualified for medical insurance in retirement because I worked for this company for 25 years. This is a benefit that fewer and fewer people qualify for these days.
I pay $240 USD per month as my insurance premium payment. I have an annual deductible of $250, an amount that I must pay before the insurance pays its first dollar benefit. After my annual deductible is met, the insurance will usually pay 80% of each bill and I pay 20%. Once my total out-of-pocket costs (the cumulative 20% pieces) for any calendar year equal $1,500 USD, then the insurance will pay 100% of each subsequent bill for the remaining portion of the year.
So, in my situation, I will pay out of my annual budget about $4380 USD each year. Keep in mind that my type of plan is considered relatively desirable compared to most. Some people pay more, a lot more. And other people pay for everything out-of-pocket and often forgo medical care that is needed.
One advantage of our system is that I can usually get the latest diabetes devices and treatments without fighting with the insurance company. The doctor prescribes it and the supplier sends it to me and submits a bill to the insurance company. Once the insurance company pays its portion, the supplier will send me a bill for the balance. I've used an insulin pump since 1987 and the insurance company has purchased a new one for me about every five years or so. I use a Dexcom CGM, currently the latest G4 model. I had three previous 7+ CGMs. I use, and the insurance company pays for, 1400 test strips every 90 days. While my insurance company is good about providing this for me, other insurance companies can be difficult for payment.
The disgrace of our system is that we currently have millions of people without access to medical care due to cost. At the moment we, as a nation, are transitioning to a new law, signed by President Obama, called the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Some people, political opponents of President Obama, derisively call it "Obamacare." In essence, starting in 2014, an additional 50 million people will end up with access to health care.
The ACA also removes an anti-consumer feature of current insurance company policy called "pre-existing conditions." If you have diabetes, for instance, if the insurance company even allows you to buy insurance, you will pay a high price and it will disallow any future claim base on anything to do with a pre-existing diabetes symptom.
The ACA is not a single-payer system like the National Health Service in the UK. It is a hybrid system that incorporates current private sector insurance payers. It is not, as some critics contend, "socialized" medicine. I don't understand the critics who despise socialized medicine, yet have no problem receiving payments from Medicare, a socialized program that cover medical costs for senior citizens), or medical benefits from the Veterans Administration.
In summary, we Americans pay more per capita for health care costs than every other nation on the globe. And we currently exclude about 50 million people. At least we are moving in the right direction with the ACA.
That's the short version of things from my perspective. I hope it doesn't provoke any discordant down thread arguments!
Your are really, really, really lucky to live in Norway. I would love to visit some day. I hear it is beautiful!