French health insurance

In the video clip below pediatrician Dr. Aaron Carroll of the Indiana University School of Medicine describes how the overall healthcare system works in France, and it’s quite interesting, especially for those of us in the U.S.

Basically, everybody in France has health insurance that pays most of the cost of medical and dental care, and almost everybody buys additional coverage from private insurance companies to make up almost all the difference. Most doctors are part of private or group practices. There are no restrictions on what doctor you can see, and a remarkable number of things are covered, including dental care and even home health aides for new mothers. If you need some kind of medicine, no matter how expensive, you get it, and your insurance pays almost all the cost. Medical school is free, and so is medical malpractice insurance. Doctors can charge what they want, but if it’s above the recommended amount, they have to post their prices, a nifty fact Dr Carroll neglects to mention.

In international comparisons of healthcare outcomes, France routinely comes out at or near the top, and patients report being very satisfied.

Of course, as you might expect, this system is relatively expensive, significantly above the average for developed countries. In 2011 total healthcare costs came to $4118 per resident of France. But the corresponding figure for the United States was more than twice as high, $8508.


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