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Island of the Blessed Mommies

Pope Paul VI, talking to the Austrian President Franz Jonas in 1971, called Austria the "Island of the Happy". The phrase stuck, albeit mutated: throughout the seventies and into the early eighties Austrians saw their country as the "Island of the Blessed". In many ways it still is.

Take maternal mortality rates. According to the latest Lancet report 17 out of 100.000 women die in the USA because of pregnancy or child birth; in Austria it is only six out of 100.000. The difference is huge. It means that American women have an almost threefold chance of dying when they become pregnant.
The reason for the disparity? Austria is a welfare state.
  • Compared to the USA Austria has no poverty to speak of, and poverty is related to poor health;
  • Austria's health care system is universal, meaning everybody is insured;
  • Some benefits for expectant and new mothers are tied to medical examinations during pregnancy. If a woman does not go for checkups she will lose money.
Obviously, the saving of lives comes with a price: higher taxes. In this case, it's worth it.

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