Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Paying Insurance for Nothing": State of Dental Care in France Resembles French Caricature of America's Capitalist Health Care in General

You know the legend that the teeth of Frenchmen are yellow and ugly? Well, it turns out there is a reason for that. While the French, and the Europeans, castigate Americans for not having a health system as humane as theirs, which they are constantly bragging about and lionizing to the skies, it turns out that dental costs are hardly covered by la Sécurité Sociale at all and, indeed, have never been so expensive.

And thus it is that Laetitia Clavreul treats us a series of Le Monde articles that seem straight out of a greedy-and-evil-capitalist-pigs-in-America-preying-on-the-innocent-(and-)toothless-paupers documentary on the France 2 TV channel; from the teacher who opted not to get five teeth replaced and the maid who had to settle for a botched-up job for her broken front tooth to the 49-year-old woman who no longer has any teeth at all and to the other teacher who would rather have holes in his mouth than wear a (humiliating) set of false teeth ("J'ai préféré un trou que la honte. Un dentier, ça passe à 90 ans, pas à moins de 40." La décision a donc été prise : "Renoncer à ces soins et continuer avec ma bouche édentée"). As for a computer specialist, he traveled to Romania to get six teeth replaced by a (French!) dentist for almost exactly half the price.
When he saw the estimate, the teacher understood that he would not have the five teeth that the dentist deemed necessary: the invoice was 12,500 euros, 10,500 of them out of his own pocket, after refunds by the health insurance and his personal insurance company. "I gave up, and I carried on with my toothless mouth," he sighs. That was four years ago. He is still in the same situation. One that is common. Who, indeed, has not, when presented with such an estimate, even a lower one, weighed the pros and cons? And decided to incur the expenses at a later date. If ever.

Quand il a vu le devis, cet instituteur a compris qu'il ne ferait pas poser les cinq dents sur pivot que son dentiste jugeait nécessaires : la facture s'élevait à 12 500 euros, dont 10 500 à sa charge, après remboursements de la Sécu et de sa mutuelle. "J'y ai renoncé, et ai continué avec ma bouche édentée", lâche-t-il. C'était il y a quatre ans. Il en est toujours là. Une situation courante. Qui n'a pas, en effet, devant un devis pas forcément aussi élevé, pesé le pour et le contre? Pour décider d'engager les frais plus tard. Voire jamais.

>>> Lire l'intégralité des témoignages, "Des dents en moins, et pas les moyens".

While the dental profession looks askew, incredibly, at low-cost cabinets having the gall to set up businesses, as chronicled by Richard Schittly, the story of Véronique sounds like a caricatural cautionary tale from the hell-hole of capitalist America:
Faced with the inability to pay, everyone reacts in their own way. Véronique (not her real name) broke a front tooth two years ago. She is a domestic helper. It was unthinkable to go to work with "a hole" in such a visible place, and equally unthinkable to pay for a prosthesis. Her dentist patched up an old piece of equipment manufactured for molars. She wears it "outdoors", and especially not while eating, lest it break.

… Still others opt for abroad. This is what Christian Prado did, a computer scientist who has just been operated in Romania by a French surgeon. He had six teeth replaced. What he had to pay from his own pocket decreased from 7 200 euros to 3 750. "That is still a large amount, but the difference accelerated my decision," he said.

Face à l'incapacité de payer, chacun a sa façon de faire. Véronique (le prénom a été changé) s'est cassé une dent de devant il y a deux ans. Elle est aide à domicile. Il lui était inenvisageable d'aller travailler avec "un trou" si mal placé, et tout autant inenvisageable de payer une prothèse. Son dentiste a rafistolé un vieil appareil fabriqué pour des molaires. Elle le porte "à l'extérieur", et ne mange surtout pas avec, de peur qu'il ne se casse.
… D'autres encore optent pour l'étranger. C'est ce qu'a fait Christian Prado, informaticien, qui vient d'être opéré en Roumanie par un chirurgien français. Il avait six dents à remplacer. Ce qu'il devait mettre de sa poche est passé de 7 200 à 3 750euros. "Cela reste un montant, mais cette différence a accéléré ma décision", dit-il.
So what is the conclusion of at least one person (a Frenchwoman who sounds strangely like an American Tea Partier) — as well as of the Le Monde articles?
"We pay insurance for nothing, it only benefits those who have dough"
"On paye des assurances pour rien, ça sert à ceux qui ont du fric", résume-t-elle.

And if you have some more time…