Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What the American enamored with French health care doesn’t realize is that the French, too, would love to have such a perfect health system

Recently in the New York Times, mystery writer Sara Paretsky published “Le Treatment,” the story of how she took her husband, suffering from chest pains during their vacation in France, to a local hospital, where he was treated without delay. … Paretsky expresses one minor reservation about what she sees as a nearly perfect health-care system: the hospital staff’s behavior was more bureaucratic than cheerful. She concludes, however, that this is a small price to pay for excellent health care at an unbeatable price: “I might put up with a lot of ugly bureaucrats for that.”
Thus writes Frenchman Guy Sorman (merci à Pat Patterson) who was subsequently interviewed by Radio America's Greg Corombos.
What she doesn’t realize is that the French, too, would love to have such a system. Paretsky’s adventure is a parable based on a false assumption: that health care can be public, reliable, and free. It may indeed seem free, or close to free, for an American tourist receiving treatment in an emergency; as a French taxpayer, however, I paid a heavy price for Paretsky’s husband’s treatment. And you, my American reader, did too.
Read why "French national health insurance is also subsidized by American patients."
…In the end, who paid for Paretsky’s husband’s nearly free ride in a French hospital? French workers and taxpayers; American patients; and the young, unqualified, and out-of-work French unable to find jobs because of the unemployment that national health insurance engenders. There is no such thing, anywhere, as a perfect health-insurance system. It’s always a trade-off among competing goods, and the choices to be made are ultimately political ones. Americans commenting on health-care reform should try to make the costs and consequences of these choices transparent, rather than resorting to misleading morality plays.
Update — Four years later (!), Fausta writes:
And, what a lot of Americans who require medical treatment while traveling in Europe don't realize is that the US group insurance companies get billed through the nose for that treatment. 
I know because I had to authorize those payments back when I worked in insurance.