Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 20, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

FRENCH HEALTHCARE....The Economist provides a capsule summary of healthcare in France:

Its hospitals gleam. Waiting-lists are non-existent. Doctors still make home visits. Life expectancy is two years longer than average for the western world.

....For the patient, the French health system is still a joy. Same-day appointments can be made easily; if one doctor's advice displeases, you can consult another, a habit known as nomadisme mdical. Individual hospital rooms are the norm. Specialists can be consulted without referral. And while the patient pays up front, almost all the money is reimbursed, either through the public insurance system or a top-up private policy.

For family doctors too, liberty prevails. They are self-employed, can set up a practice where they like, prescribe what they like, and are paid per consultation. As the health ministry's own diagnosis put it recently: The French system offers more freedom than any other in the world.

And despite the Economist's scary headline, which proclaims that "crisis looms," the French system provides this service to everyone in the country and does it for less than half the cost per person of the U.S. Even if they decide to raise taxes to cover a growing deficit in their healthcare fund (the subject of the Economist's article) their costs will still be less than half ours per person.

Now, there are undoubtedly drawbacks to the French system. They probably have fewer high-tech machines than we do, and the comparative cost figures may be skewed by the American love of elective procedures. Still, there would have to be a lot of drawbacks to make their system less attractive than ours.

So why not adopt it? Well, that would be socialized medicine. Can't have that, can we? After all, everyone knows that when you socialize something it automatically declines slowly into anarchy and uselessness. Right?

Kevin Drum 3:27 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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