Is the European Health Care System Better by Gregory Hilton

Health care costs continue to rise in the U.S. and abroad.

Health care costs continue to rise in the U.S. and abroad.

The United States spends $2.4 trillion/year, or 17.6% of our GDP, on health care and no other nation comes close. We can not claim to have the best health care, and a major problem is that almost half of the U.S. spending does nothing to improve health care. Our doctors spend a huge amount of time on insurance paperwork, not caring for patients.
The United Kingdom system is not popular in the U.S. Congress because few Americans will tolerate long lines for services, months-long delays for important, critically necessary operations and procedures, and the rationing that inevitably occurs with a government-takeover of health care.
In France, nearly 13,000 people died in the summer of 2004. The suffering from the heat so overwhelmed the French health-care system that hospitals simply stopped answering their phones and ambulance attendants told people to take care of themselves. The majority of the 13,000 died from simple dehydration. Nevertheless, there are major differences between the British and French systems.
While socialism is the model for many aspects of the French economy (utilities, transportation, etc), it is wrong to apply that label to the health care system. It is a far different system from the UK, Canada and Cuba. The UK has had free dental care since the mid 1940’s and what are they known for, their fantastic teeth? When President Sarkozy says he is against “socialized medicine” he is referring to the UK.
The French can select their own doctors, and the doctors are self employed. An increasing number of French doctors are working outside of the state system, which is not allowed in the UK. France has a mix of public and private financing which may become more prevalent in the U.S. solution.
To make all this affordable, French doctors are paid at a far lower rate than U.S. physicians would accept. In France, health insurance reimburses the patient (for the portion paid directly to the physician), not the doctor. The balance (or co-pay) is minor and paid to the doctor by the patient.
On the positive side, French doctors don’t have student loans because medical school is paid for by the state, and malpractice insurance premiums are a tiny fraction of the $55,000/year plus many U.S. doctors pay. That $55,000 equals the average yearly net income of French doctors, a third of what their American counterparts earn.
Furthermore, the French health care system has been running a deficit since 1985 and they may well move towards a U.S. style HMO plan. Patients are being charged more now, and almost all French citizens buy supplemental insurance because the state pays 70% and this reduces their out-of-pocket costs and covers extra expenses such as private hospital rooms.
There are good points in the French system, but is it realistic for the United States? The French pay over half their earnings in taxes, and that is before the 19.9% value added tax (a national sales tax), the 60% death tax, the wealth tax, the T.V. tax, and a health care tax. That is the main reason the French give very little to charity.


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