National Health Care: The French Perspective

Mar 13th, 2010 | By | Category: Social Security & Medicare

Senior Citizens continue to be concerned about what national health care will look like once a plan is passed by Congress.  SCJ will not predict the outcome, but we believe it behooves all of us to look at what is working in other countries.  Some national health insurance plans in Europe have an interesting mix of public and private financing. 

Some comparisons have been drawn between the French system and that of the United States.   Business Week recently reported that “…the French system is similar enough to the U.S. model that reforms based on France’s experience might work in America.”   Many French doctors are self-employed and may prescribe any care they deem medically necessary.  The French

  • can choose their doctors
  • see any specialist they want
  • deliver stellar results with this mix of public and private financing.  

The French national health care plan works much like Medicare in the United States.  Everyone is covered; employers and employees contribute to the same basic coverage; the government pays for unemployed people.  The U.S. Medicare system is based on the notion that senior citizens who contribute to the fund during their working years are entitled to health care upon retirement.  The French system is based on the notion that the healthy should pay for care of the sick. 

In fact, in France, the sicker you are, the less you pay for health care.  Many chronic diseases are covered at 100% of the cost.  A free medication for cancer treatment in France can cost as much as $48,000 a year in America.   

The WHO (World Health Organization) ranks health care throughout the globe.  In a recent report, France came in first and the U.S. scored 37th, slightly better than Cuba and one notch above Slovenia. France’s infant death rate is 3.9 per 1,000 live births, compared with 7 in the U.S., and average life expectancy is 79.4 years, two years more than in the U.S. 

In addition, France touts more hospital beds than the US, and more doctors per capita.  France’s death rates are lower in a variety of arenas; of particular note is the death rate from respiratory illness: The US rate is twice that of France.  Check out the Business Week article for more interesting statistics, and for comments about the French peoples’ perceptions of their health care plan. 



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