The French health care system is a universal service comprised of a network of public and private hospitals, doctors and other medical service sources. When you go to the doctor in France, payment is predictable at the point of service and people in need of healthcare and dentists ( dentiste de garde ) are not turned away due to age, employment status or pre-existing conditions.
MYTH: THAT EVERYONE GETS COVERAGE.
Only French citizens and legal French residents are covered by the French healthcare system — basically, those that are paying into the system. If you’re staying in France as a traveler from the USA and break your leg, you will undeniably be treated, no questions asked, but you’ll be responsible for all costs. In many cases, your American insurer will cover the cost but sometimes they won’t. Granted, the costs are much less than you’d pay in the US but they’re still your responsibility.
One fantastic thing I want to point out is that if you lose your job, you don’t lose your health insurance in France. Many times in the USA, if you lose your job, you lose your and even worse, your family’s health insurance along with your income. The French system is free of one’s employment status — and doesn’t separate based on age, wealth or your social class — so even if you’re without a job, you don’t have to worry about ruining your family if you need surgery or another costly medical procedure.
For anyone who gets anxious thinking about healthcare or has ever wriggled with coverage, the fact that your job doesn’t factor into you and your family’s health plan is a major plus. From a human rights view, this is the way to go. “Access to health care seems to have produced a healthier nation. The nation has more hospital beds and doctors per capita than the U.S., and a decidedly lower rate of death from the respiratory disease. And France spends less on health care than the U.S.
MYTH: THAT IT’S FREE (OR REALLY CHEAP).
This one grinds my ge
ars! I just heard it last week from a healthcare professional in the USA and it might be one of the most widely believed myths about French medic
al system. Compared to the cost of care in the USA, French healthcare costs is without a doubt more affordable. But is it free or really cheap? No. Let’s not fo
rget that the French pay heavy social charges they pay into the system, along with employers on the back end. So even though the flat fee of 23 euros is cheap for a general doctor’s visit the French do pay a heavy sum for their healthcare but it’s not when services are reduced. Every paycheck you get shows the deductions for social charges and you pay into the system whether you’re sick or not. Beyond paying into the system, French health services are not always low cost.
MYTH: THAT THE HEALTHC
ARE IS GREAT.
That’s a really loaded statement. “Great” is subjective and wholly depends on the facility, doctor, and your ailment. There are great and not-so-great practitioners everywhere in the world. Let’s not fall for the grass is always greener syndrome. What does “great” mean to you? I may be biased but I firmly believe that Fren
ch healthcare is great for emergency and routine coverage. If you need emergency surgery or have aggressive cancer, the French system has you co
vered, as noted above.
For example there is a pharmacy that stays open at night in every area and it is responsible for every need that may occur. It is called as pharmacy de garde and it every pharmacy ought to do that shift once in a week or maybe once in a month.
Along with that, if you’re
reasonably healthy and see the doctor once a year and rarely need specialists, the French system is great as well. But if you need to see specialists regularly, they’re often difficult to book an appointment with due to overcrowding, 6-month wait for n
ew patients and if you do get in, the doctor may be rushed.
To be fair, this is often the case in the US too. Does this happen in France? Sure it does. But I have to say that I’ve also spent 45 minutes with my doctor who was patient and thorough.
MYTH: THAT IT’S EASY TO SEE SPECIALISTS.
Unlike general practitioners, specialists are allowed to set their own rates beyond the normal rate and only a portion of whatever the government deems a rational charge is repaid. So if the regular cost to see a dermatologist is 45 euros but yours charges 70 euros because he’s in demand, you’re only reimbursed a portion of that baseline charge of 45, not the entire 70. As noted above, it’s sometimes very difficult to get in to see a specialist if you’re new to an area or your condition is annoying but not urgent. You’re going to wait. Many times you’ll need a referral from your family doctor to see a specialist in a timely manner and to be reimbursed. It’s best to learn how to finesse people over the phone sooner than later. Sometimes when the porters pity you, they’ll be more likely to help — that goes double if you’re being polite.
So it is really obvious that the truth is a little different than people who do not live in France, believe. It is a reliable health system but it has some things that sure need to be changed.