Saturday, February 28, 2009


Without getting much sleep for a week due to having the most horrendous cough of my life, I decided a visit to the doctor was in order. I don’t have any health insurance in France so I was concerned the prices would shoot through the roof, but at that point it didn’t matter. I was officially sick and needed medical care.

A friend drove me to her physician's office. It was a busy day and I had to wait a few minutes to see him. Trying to keep my mind occupied, I read every sign in the waiting room. The very last poster I came to announced that an adult patient pays only 22 € for an appointment. I wasn't quite sure if I had read that correctly. After confirming with my friend that I not only read the sign correctly, but even those who didn't have insurance, including non-citizens such as myself, only had to pay this small fee. Furthermore, I learned that if you do have insurance, the patient will actually be reimbursed for the 22 € from the state. In other words, it ends up actually being free for them. Even though I still had to pay out of pocket, I couldn't complain about the fee. It was so low that if I weren't so sick I would have jumped up and down with joy. It was truly a miracle.

After learning about the pricing, the doctor examined me. I already knew what the culprit was, but he verified my prognosis. I had chronic bronchitis. Well, that explained the loudest most painful cough known to mankind that I had recently developed. He wrote out my prescription and I headed to the pharmacy.

Six boxes of various medications were placed into a bag. With all the pharmaceuticals I now had, I could practically open up a drug store myself. I was certain it would be several hundred euros. Once again, I was nicely surprised. If I were French it would have been less than 10 €. As a non-French citizen it was only 30 €. That’s 30 € without any health insurance to help cover costs! Hey you American insurance companies, are you paying attention?

I wondered how the healthcare system was being paid for. It turns out that an average French citizen pays 8.75% of their paycheck to the healthcare system. For those in management who make more money they will pay a slightly higher percentage. In addition, the employer pitches in another 12.8% per employee. That is a very low percentage considering every person in France is covered.

My health insurance back home was $420 per month and it didn’t cover everything. Granted I am self-employed, but even while I worked for a company both the employer and myself were paying higher rates to the insurance company.

It did occur to me that perhaps the French people may not actually want to pay the cost of the insurance. I decided to put my investigative hat on and ask around. I was nicely surprised that every single person that participated in my survey, wanted to pay the fees. Healthcare is important for everyone, they all told me. 

Granted, the politicians don't always agree with the people. The new French president, Monsier Sarkozy, wants to eliminate the French healthcare system all together. Costs are too high, he says. However, he is not taking into consideration that the folks living in this country are choosing to keep their healthcare covered. It is the humane thing to do, after all. I only hope the rest of the world pays attention to the French system and copies it. Imagine if everyone on the planet was actually covered for all their medical treatments. It would be a good thing indeed.

Thank you for reading and bonne journée!