Thursday, January 5, 2012

French Healthcare Continued

I waited and waited. Four people came in after I arrived, and I began to worry. While each person before me seemed to go in their proper place in line, I know the French are notorious for not queueing well. Your place in line is merely a suggestion; often there is no line, just a gaggle of people with at least one or two people elbowing their way up to be first in the door. This is the fifth difference from American healthcare. No one would dare push ahead of someone else to see the doctor sooner! As the wait grew longer, the few of us left to be seen grew restless. I eyed the competition and decided one of the two old ladies would be who might try to jump my place in line. When my turn came, I arose and walked towards the doctor's open door. Who should budge in front of me, but the old man sitting in corner! Giving me a glaring 'don't you dare challenge me' look over his shoulder, he pushed in front of me. I merely shrugged and told the doctor "It's okay!" As soon as the door closed, the old ladies began chattering about his rudeness and saying it was my turn, not his. I repeated "It's okay!" as I chuckled to myself.

Finally, it was my turn. Difference number six: I began my visit sitting with the doctor at his desk while he hand wrote my demographic information and health history on a sheet of paper. No electronic record keeping here. No insistence that he copy my insurance card. I merely told him I didn't have French healthcare insurance, and we moved on.

I was directed to the exam room and told to take off my clothes, but leave my underwear on. As I tried to pull the folded paper sheet over myself, the doctor took it from me and said 'No, no Madame, That's for your feet.' Gulp...difference seven: the French are so very unself-conscious about their bodies. No covering up allowed! After a thorough exam of my knee, heart and lungs, the doctor prounounced the problem a very inflammed joint which 'we will treat first with medicine.' He said I might need an injection into the joint in the future, but for now, we'll start simply. Yay! No torn ligament, no torn meniscus, I don't need a knee replacement. I will walk again!

Difference eight: as he wrote out my instructions and medication names for the pharmacy, he presented me his bill....23 euros. He's a one-man show...receptionist, physician and billing department. I went straight to the pharmacy and bought my drugs. Even with a new, high-powered prescription anit-inflammatory drug, I only paid 31 euros. So for a total of 54 euros, I'm on my way to recovery.

Still not able to climb mountains or even take the dogs for a long walk, but I can feel and see the improvement. I've survived my first adventure in the French healthcare system. Best of all, I really liked the doctor and asked him to be my physician, so I'm all set for any further problems.


  1. Bravo! And so good to know that it is nothing requiring major surgery. I started to smile the minute I began reading your first entry about the doctor visit. This is so very typical of France. No wonder it is touted as the best health care system in the world. No middle man (or middle-men or middle-women). No pharmaceutical lobbies, no big money insurance companies raking in the profits. Gives a whole new meaning to "affordable health care". The catch is that the French pay into the system all their working lives, and many still pay for top up insurance. Taxes in France are extremely high. That said, the money has to come from somewhere. I have no desire to enter into a political discussion about health care. I think your experience (which mirrors mine and those of others) speaks volumes.

  2. I hope you'll continue to heal well, and that you won't need anymore doctors in 2012! Happy New Year, Evelyn, all the best and a good health in 2012!

  3. I was very pleased with my healthcare experience! The doctor was thorough and his explanations simple and to the point. The whole experience including pharmacy time didn't seem to be much longer than I would have spent in the States. Being able to see the doctor without an appointment meant a bit of a wait at the office, but better than waiting for an appointment for a week! Even paying out of pocket for everything, it was not expensive. We could certainly embrace some of the 'differences' in care in the States and improve our system. What's worse paying high taxes or paying even higher insurance premiums...if you can afford insurance at all?

  4. I find that my French friends are absolutely incredulous when I try to explain how health care insurance, in the States, is most often tied to one's employment. Even my ex-pat acquaintances do not quite understand the system in the States.

    All of that aside, I happy you are on the mend. I would strongly encourage you to see if there is someone in the area who does acupuncture, I have found it very helpful for pain.

  5. Interesting experience! So glad nothing serious do take care. Blessings to you for the New Year!

  6. Some good, some bad ... like every system, I guess. I do love that it sounds so quaint and personal. Glad the knee doesn't seem serious ... hope you're on the mend.