Some of you who know me from back when may be wondering why I haven't written anything about the French health system. The plain truth of the matter is that we have had very few encounters with it during our time here -- not one case of "le gastro" -- the crazy stomach flu that strikes the French each winter, no strep throats, not even any lingering colds, nada. Knock on wood.
Atul Gawande wrote a nice piece in The New Yorker way back in January giving President Obama some ideas about health reform. In it he reports that the French went from an all cash system with virtually no insurance in the years immediately following World War II to a system funded by payroll taxes that today covers all French residents. He also notes that the French are more satisfied with their system than residents of any other major Western nation, and compared with Americans, they live longer, have lower infant mortality, more physicians, and lower costs. Back in 2000, the World Health Organization rated it the best system in the world. The U.S. clocked in at #37.
I could write a book about everything that's wrong with the non-system that is American health care. But too many people have already done that. Plus I've got a file drawer full of articles and white papers on the topic for anyone who's a real glutton for punishment.
Of course every system has its snags and with bureaucracy being virtually a national religion in France, I'm sure there are those who will point out the flaws in the French system. Be that as it may, a system funded by payroll taxes with basic public coverage for all plus private supplementary coverage and fee for service physician payment to private docs doesn't sound too much like a stretch for health reformers back home. I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that the stars and politics align to make it all happen.