PARIS, FRANCE. Republicans and respected opinion makers like Bill O’Reilly have asked the question: do we want the United States to become another France. I understand their concern because I experience the horror of living in «socialist» France everyday. Like nearly all people living legally in France, I carry a little plastic green card, like a credit card, with a micro-chip in it. This chip carries information about my standing with the French Social Security system, popularly known as the Sécu. The Sécu is the French government’s health agency and not a retirement system.
At least once a year, I am required by the bureaucracy to go to an office to update my information. There is a little machine to do this and it takes about 5 minutes. Also, I take advantage of my presence to get a printed certificate of my health care status to avoid difficulties when I seek care. I usually get several examples because as you will see later, they are useful. This also is done by a machine in the office and takes another 5 minutes. I suppose this double check is a means of avoiding fraud.
When I visit a clinic or a new doctor, whom I can choose where I want, I must show my card and certificate letter to the receptionist to benefit from the Sécu payment. This payment covers 70 percent of the cost. The same is true for approved prescription drugs. Most French workers also subscribe to a private insurance or a group known as a mutual. For around 800 to 1,000 dollars or a a bit more a year; they cover the remaining 30%. So if I am up to date, I don’t put out any money. If I don’t have my documents, I pay and receive a form letter to send to the Sécu and be reimbursed.
Of course this has a cost and a certain amount is deducted from my paycheck each month so I may receive a bit less take-home than in the U.S., but I don’t know how low salaries are there at the moment so I can’t be sure.
A practical example of dealing with the government health care bureaucracy. I make an appointment with a generalist or family doctor at a clinic. I give the receptionist my little card and my printed certificate. I always arrive early, so it may take a half an hour for me to be called. My doctor takes down my medical history and checks my vital signs. Just to be safe, she gives me a prescription to see a cardiologist. I make an appointment with one in the same clinic. He sees nothing to worry about, but to be sure, gives me a prescription to go to a hospital and take a «stress test».
This test consists of putting about a dozen electrodes on my chest and having me walk on a treadmill which changes speed and I must speed up or slow down. It could have been a stationary bicycle as well. At reception, I again have to give my card and certificate, more bureaucratic annoyance. The cardiologists finds that I am in rather good health for my age. I have paid nothing out of my pocket through this entire procedure.
Another point. I had a tooth problem so I made and appointment with a dentist at my clinic. He finds that I have a molar to be extracted and can’t do that in his office so he gives me a prescription to have it done in a hospital. First I have to have a complete x-ray of my teeth, for which he also gave me a prescription, so I go to lab which is a short walk away. They tell me they can do it right away, but I have another appointment and make an appointment with them for the next day. When I arrive, early as usual, I once again have to show my card and certificate. After about a 15 minute wait, I am called in and the x-ray is quickly done and developed and given to me before I leave.
Next I make an appointment with a dentist at the hospital. When the day comes, I have to take a number from a machine at reception and wait for it to be called–more bureaucracy–which takes about 15 minutes, and have to show my card and certificate once again. I receive a document to give to the dentist. I am very early this time and there is a no-show, so I am taken immediately . The dentist is competent and does the procedure rapidly and I am out of there with a prescription for an anti-biotic to take for four days to prevent potential infection.
I go the my local pharmacy and show the prescription and give them my card which they put in the machine assuring my rights. I receive my medicine and leave having spent nothing out of my wallet. I agree with the pharmaceutical and insurance sponsored Republicans and a Murdoch-hacker sponsored Bill O’Reilly: who could put up with such a complicated «socialist» system and why would they want to? I must be a masochist.
To give you a comparison of health care systems, there is this little ditty We’re Number 37 by Paul Hipp.