Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Report on Health Care: An American In Paris

My longtime friend Joe Ross (pictured above with me in Paris on July 7), author of a number of books of poetry and a book of plays, has lived in Paris since 2004. I asked him to send me some anecdotal information about health care in France so that I could pass it along to students and others. He sent me the following details (used by permission):

Hey Mark-

So, a health care story for you.

Last week I was having real difficulty in breathing (because of the summer pollution and pollen). I had a little bit of asthma as a kid and here in the summers sometimes I need very rarely to take an inhaler... maybe 4 or 5 times for the entire summer.

Anyway, I called my doctor on a Thursday afternoon and found out that he was out that day but could see me first thing in the morning. Not bad, but I knew I would not be able to sleep that night and had a class at 9 on Friday.

So I called the "emergency" docs (SOS Medicine). I talked to a first response doctor on the phone, told him the problems and what I normally do. He said that sounded correct and would send a doctor to my house. The doctor arrived 30 minutes later, did an "over the top" examine and wrote me the prescription for the inhaler.

I went downstairs to the drug store and bought it.

So the cost?

Emergency house call: out of pocket 40 Euros ( 23 will be refunded by my French health care and the rest by our "private" insurance).

Medication: 5 Euros, fully covered. Out of pocket: zero.

My cost for French health coverage: about 400 Euros per Year.
Our cost for the "private" insurance: zero, part of Laura's job (if not they cost about 20 Euros a month)

Another case:

I had surgery for a hernia in December.

Five doctor visits, hospital, anesthesia, recovery, meds, and post op.

Total cost : Zero!

Having a baby:

Doctor visit (mandatory!) once a month
5 days post-birth hospital stay (private room)
In home check-ups (3) to make sure mom and baby are well
Lots of pre and post birth meds
etc etc

Total cost : Zero. In fact, you get about 600 euros when you are confirmed to be pregnant and then receive about 300 euros per month after the birth.

There are some things specific to talk about with your students and others. Hope that helps!


It sure does help, Joe. Thanks. The circumstances you describe are pretty much unthinkable in the U.S.

Even as the last few days have raised questions about whether it can happen, I remain committed to the idea of a public option insurance plan in the U.S. to compete with private insurers and end their current monopoly on health care coverage. Private health insurance options have not only proved no solution to the rising cost and declining standards of health coverage in the U.S., but are obviously the source of them.


Anonymous said...

Hey Mark - just saw that you posted my note and thought to add some further context - just so your readers don't think that this is just a "Frenchie" thing . . my Canadian friends over here bitch to no end about how expensive health care is in Europe compared to back home in North America! Joe

Lemon Hound said...

Yes, my sister battled cancer for years in Vancouver, passed away in a private room with round the clock care and access to the best oncologist in the province. Total cost?