April 1, 2010

Chez médecin

I was rather sick over the weekend, and this provided me with the opportunity to take a peek into the French health care system.

One difference is how personal the care is. It is truly between you and your physician. In order to make an appointment with the doctor, I called him directly. I called his cell phone, he himself picked up, and he himself told me to stop by at 17h30.

Upon entering the salle d’attente (waiting room), there was nowhere to sign in. There was no reception. There was no one to give me papers to begin filling out. The doctor simply opened his door, and in the patients went. I guess the French don’t need a piece of paper to tell them what order they showed up in.

Upon entering his office, we exchanged pleasantries and then he asked me what was wrong. Although the medical examination was pretty much routine, he didn’t take my temperature, nor did he weigh me. He also didn't get any tests. It kind of weirded me out, but the medicine he gave me seems to have done the trick so ça va.

I can’t tell you what I had as he told me in French and I do not have the necessary French medical vocabulary, but he did give me a doctor’s note to get out of work!

The biggest surprise for an American like me, who has grown up in a health care system driven by insurance companies, was when I went to pay the man. I was expecting it to be expensive as I had to pay out of pocket and then be reimbursed.

It was 22 euros.
That’s less than $30.
My co-pay, when I was under my parent’s insurance, was $30! But €22 got me a doctor’s visit without any insurance!

And as if that wasn’t shockingly cheap enough, the next step was to pick up my prescription antibiotics. I had to buy 4 different medicines. Again, I had to pay out of pocket.

It cost 19.30 euros. 19.30!!

So let’s review:
Doctor’s visit: €20
Prescription medication: €19.30
Knowing you’re going to be reimbursed anyway because France has universal healthcare: Priceless.

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