The French Patient

The French health care system is the pride and joy of proponents of national health care. Unlike the horror that is the British National Health Care Service, it is claimed, the French have figured out a way to do it right. Their government, that can control neither its unemployment rate nor its (chronically striking) employed, is somehow still able to provide excellent care without waiting lines in a cost-effective way and without back-breaking taxes.

But if that sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. In today’s Globe and Mail, Claire de Oliveria of the C.D. Howe Institute reveals that more than 92% of French residents supplement their stellar, government-provided health care with private insurance. “In fact, private insurance makes up 12.7 per cent of all health-care spending in France, a percentage exceeded only by the Netherlands and the United States.” Why do the French have to turn to the rapacious private sector for help? Because most public health services require co-payments ranging from 10 to 40 per cent of the cost that, if patients had to cover solely out-of-pocket, they would likely get financially wiped out.

And despite this substantial infusion of private dollars, Oliveria notes, the French health care system has still been running deficits the past few years. “Indeed, the health system is the single largest factor driving France’s overall budget deficit,” he writes. “The impact will surely begin to affect the amount and quality of services provided.”

So much for the French model!

Whole thing here.