Why France? – Health Care

So more on the ‘why I live in france’!

So I’ll step away from the food reasons (but don’t worry they will be back!), and let’s get into some other stuff. How about something more administrative that really effects lifestyle: health care!

France is renowned for its wonderful health care, just watch Michael Moore’s “Sicko” and you’ll already get a good image of the differences between the American and French system.

I know over the past few years Americas health care program has changed, and many things are still changing. Seeing as I haven’t been really following the changes and what has been going on I can’t give a real comparison, but what I can do is explain (to the best of my abilities) how the system works in France, from the point of view of a consumer.

Stethoscope on a printed sheet of paper


Let’s say you get the flu. Or even a common head cold. Normally, in the states we just wait it out, we spend a few days bed ridden, drinking orange juice and tomato soup, and taking over the counter ibuprofen. We don’t look to the doctor unless we run a high fever or start vomiting blood.

The process isn’t quite the same when health care is practically free. Here in France, people will go to the doctor for nothing more than a head cold. You’ve got a runny nose and a head ache? You should go see the doctor! And normally if you call, you can get an appointment that same week, or even that same day. Seeing the doctor in France is 23€ for a normal visit, and  16,10€ of that is reimbursed by the government. Leaving you with a miniscule bill.

Now imagine that for a more serious problem you are referred to a specialist. Specialists can get expensive, like 200€, 300€ for a visit right? Well, here you walk out of the specialists’ office with only having paid about 70€.

These prices are all based on the general government health insurance that covers everybody… everybody. Now on top of that government insurance you can add on what they call a “mutuelle”, which is a private insurance that either you can pay for or your employer pays for. Now this extra mutuelle basically makes health care free.

Going back to the 23€ doctor visit, you’ve got 16,10€ reimbursed by the government and now imagine your mutuelle reimburses you an extra 6,9€. You’ve paid 0€ for your visit to the doctor.

The same goes for the pharmacy. Imagine you’ve just gotten a prescription for antibiotics, painkillers, cough syrup, birth control… whatever it may be, and you go to the pharmacy to fill your prescription. You show your government health insurance card and you already get a nice reduction, but then you show your “mutuelle” card and it’s rare you’ll pay anything at all.

The French are well taken care of, and they know it. In a way they almost abuse it. Over the years I’ve noticed that people go to the doctor for the littlest of things. Like I said before, a simple cold can easily be waited out with the right over the counter medicines and some good rest. But the French go to the doctor for everything. You’re sick? Go to the doctor. It’s a national hobby.

I’m not criticizing the French in any way at all. In fact, I love the idea that the country tries its’ best to give everyone access to doctors, and medicine. Sure the French pay for it in taxes, but you never hear anybody complaining about having to pay for it, because they know they are well taken care of.6,10


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