Health Care Is Better In France: Because It’s A Given

By

Leonard Zwelling

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/02/opinion/france-united-states-universal-health-care.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage

Everyone is covered. It’s that simple really.

In the above linked article from The New York Times on January 3, Erica Rex describes her experience as a consumer of health care in America, Britain and France. She likes the latter best. She even moved there to get it.

She relates her story in the context of her visit to the waiting room of an orthopaedic surgeon in Tours. Apparently, the closed mouth privacy concerns of an American waiting room are suspended in Europe where the threat of pre-existing conditions is really absent. Everyone chats about their complaints and ailments as they wait for the doctor, who has limited staff. (Apparently the doc changes the paper on the examining table in France.)

In France there is a baseline level of care guaranteed to everyone with state insurance. Some ace doctors demand higher payment that many French cover with auxiliary policies. It’s like what happens here with Medicare supplemental insurance. The point is that the French have developed a French approach to health care that covers everyone, but still provides more than one tier of care for those wishing to pay more.

To appreciate how far this is from the system of care in the United States, just factor in the worry. So many Americans (probably about 30 million) have no insurance and many have insurance that would prove inadequate if a catastrophic illness struck. Ms. Rex’s point is that this is not good for individuals and not good for the country. There is a certain sense of security that comes with knowing that access to health care is both guaranteed and not outrageously priced. French citizens do not go bankrupt due to medical bills. Americans shouldn’t either.

As a member of Physicians for National Health Program, I support a single payer system like the one in France. There simply is no excuse for not having an American version although there is an explanation. Everyone in the system here is simply making too much money off the current approach. Drug prices were just raised again at a rate three times that of inflation. Why? Because the drug companies can do it and no one will stop them. Insurance rates can also go up as can deductibles and co-pays. The average American, even one with employer-provided coverage, cannot really be certain of the bite health care costs might take of his or her income in any given year. How can you plan? How can you not worry?

Perhaps the French system is not one that would be readily accepted in the United States. Perhaps we need our own system of guaranteeing everyone access to care without the threat of bankruptcy. I know we need something different than what we have now.

We should not be so resistant to learning from the work of others. Even the French. It might be good for America to adopt the best of what the rest of the world has already worked out.

Leonard Zwelling