The Casual Reporter: A Horror Story from France's Universal Health Care System

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Horror Story from France's Universal Health Care System

I'd had a bad stomach for 10 days so I thought I'd get it checked out just in case it's something sinister. I'm new to the area so I went to the phone book and browsed the doctors around me, general practictioners to surgeons, and decided on a specialist, called, made an appointment for 3 days later.

His office was in a private clinic hospital with state-of-the-art technology. I checked in with the secretary and waited about a half hour.

The doctor was well-presented, friendly, attentive, and highly qualified. He had the latest technology on hand in a very clean, bright, well-decorated and well-furnished office. After the examination, 44 euros later, he sent me away with a prescription for 2 drugs and a blood test.

I went home and walked to the pharmacy to get my drugs, which cost me 13 Euros. Since I hadn't bothered to find the lab close to the doctor's office, I asked where the nearest lab was that could take my blood for the blood test. The pharmacist told me which ones were closest, then handed me a slip of paper with the names of 6 nurses I could call and have my blood taken at home. After 14 years in France I wasn't aware I could have a nurse come take my blood.

I went home and called one of the nurses, who agreed to come over the following morning. She arrived a bit earlier than scheduled, took my blood and charged me 7.03 Euros.

Tomorrow I'll walk to the pharmacy and pick up my blood test results, or have them sent directly to the specialist. About 70 - 80% of the dcctor's, nurse's, and lab costs will be reimbursed by the National Health Insurance and another 10 - 20% paid by my employer-provided supplementary private insurance, so I'll be out about 5% of the cost. Prescription drugs are usually reimbursed as well, but not always. It depends on the drug. In this case, the 13 euros won't be reimbursed.

Now I'm sitting at home near the fire watching British Comedy on TV and my stomach is feeling much better. Had I been in the states I don't know what my experience would have been, but considering the experience was inexpensive, efficient, and effective, and I had full choice of doctor, including a specialist, I can't see much room for improvement. The only downside is I just looked at some photos of Wyoming and I miss it very much. Shame this system wasn't over there.

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