French Health Care: A Different Case

The diary right below this one has raised a question for at least one reader about who does health care better. I don’t want to suggest there are simple answers, but it is worth having another case on hand from a different medical system. The one below is part of a post at DailyKos. Jerome a Paris is recounting his son’s treatment in Paris when it was discovered that he had a tumor in his brain.I’ve put in bold some of the passages that seem to give us a stark contrast with the experience recounted in the earlier diary.

He was first diagnosed by our pediatrician, a private sector doctor, who sent us to the (public) specialised pediatric hospital in Paris for additional exams. We did a scan and a MRI the same day, and that brought the diagnosis we know. He was hospitalised the same day, with surgery immediately scheduled for two days later. At that point, we only had to provide our social security number.Surgery – an act that the doctor that performed it (one of the world’s top specialists in his field) told us he would not have done it five years before – actually took place the next week, because emergency cases came up in the meantime. After a few days at the hospital, we went home. At that point, we had spent no money, and done little more than filling up a simple form with name and social security number.Meetings with the doctor in charge of his long term treatment, and with a specialised re-education hospital, were immediately set up, and chemiotherapy and physical therapy were scheduled for the next full year.Physical therapy included a few hours each day in a specialised hospital, with a varied team of specialists (kinesitherapy, ergotherapy, phychologist, orthophonist) and, had we needed it, schooling. As we lived not too far away, we tried to keep our son at his pre-school for half the day, and at the hospital the other half. Again, apart from filling up a few forms, we had nothing to do.My wife pretty much stopped working to take my son to the hospital every day (either for reeducation or treatment) – and was allocated a stipend by the government as caregiver, for a full year (equal to just under the minimum wage). Had we needed it, transport by ambulance would have been taken care of, free of charge for us (as it were, car commutes to the hospital could also be reimbursed).During the chemiotherapy, if he had any side effects (his immune system being weakened, any normal children’s disease basically required him to be hospitalised to be given full anti-biotic treatment), we’d call up the hospital and just come around. Either of us could spend the night with him as needed. We never spent a dime.After a year at the specialised hospital, ongoing re-education was moved to another institution specialised in home and school interventions. In practice, a full team of 5 doctors or specialists come to see him over the week, either at home or at school, to continue his treatment (such follow up, possibly less intense than at the beginning, will be needed until he reaches his adult size). Of course, they manufacture braces and other specialised equipment for him and provide it free of charge to us.Check up exams take place every 3 months, with all the appropriate exams (usually including a MRI), and we’ve never had to wait for the appointments. Again, no cost for us, no funds to be fronted.When he relapsed, our doctors considered all available options. In the end, the most promising technology was in another Paris hospital. Such technology, linked to nuclear research, exists only in 3 places in the world, one in Boston and one in Switzerland, so the French system itself was able to provide a cutting edge option. But had we needed to go to Germany, the UK or even the USA for treatment because that’s where the best hope was, the costs of that would have been covered too by French social security.So, we did not have to spend a single cent. We got support to be available for him. He gets top notch treatment. We never had to wait for anything. And this is available to absolutely everybody in France, irrespective of your job, age or family situation. If you are badly sick or injured, you simply do not have to worry about money at any time, nor about lack of care.

4 thoughts on “French Health Care: A Different Case

  1. The reason health care is so expensive in this country and the reason we rank only 45th in quality of care is the legal environment in which physicians have to work. This is the pink elephant in the room that no one whished to talk about. More than half of the diagnostic testing, hospitalization and medications prescribed are not necessary and wasteful. A typical hopitalizatoin day costs an average of $ 1,500 per day and that is just for room and board. When you add the unnecessary tests done during this day, the cost could easily run to $5,000 or more. Most of this is due to the fear of litigation. Of all the billions spent in health care, a very large chunk of it is spent because physicains and hospitals have to cover themselves. Most physicians will not admit to this and surely the “leaders of the medical establishment” will not. It would be akin to admitting they were committing fraud, and they will not do this. The great majority of the other 44 countries who are doing better than us on a much smaller budget do not have the threat of litigation hanging over their heads, hence, they can practice rational and reasonable medicine.

    Establishing universal healthcare without addressing the malpractice issue, will not improve care.

  2. Hmm, collectivist healthcare hurting the people? Imagine y surprise to hear that notion, especially from a leftist blog comment. I wonder why the socialists want to impose the same system here. Where will the Frenchies, Candians, and the Brits go when they need an escape hatch?

  3. Hmmm, I would like to read more about the French healthcare system. The lettte about the young mans treatment is certainly impressive.
    D. Knaus

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