Healthcare in France

HEALTHCARE IN FRANCE….In my posts over the past week on national healthcare, I’ve generally used France as an example worth emulating. The reason for highlighting France is that it’s a big, diverse country (unlike, say, Denmark, which wouldn’t be a fair model for a country the size of the United States); its healthcare system is very highly regarded; and the way it’s run is well suited to American temperaments.

By “well suited,” what I mean is that it’s not a super-centralized system like the NHS in Britain. Rather, doctors operate privately; their basic fees are set at low levels by the government but can be increased if the market will bear it; patients can choose any doctor they like; and the government pays only 75% of all normal costs (though longer hospital stays and expensive operations are covered at higher rates). There are lots more details, of course, but that’s the basic outline, and it’s the kind of thing that appeals to American sensibilities.

And it works pretty well. French healthcare is excellent, waiting lists are short, the supply of doctors is high, overall costs are reasonable, and patient satisfaction levels are excellent. It couldn’t be transplanted whole into the United States, of course ? doctors are paid considerably more here, for one thing ? but it’s a pretty good model for what we could accomplish.

If you’re interested, Ezra Klein has a good brief summary of how the French system works. Check it out.