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The Health Care System in France | Podcast

Updated: Jan 14

Hey, you! 🏥

One of the biggest changes we experienced when we moved from the Philippines to France 10 years ago was the Health Care System. Admittedly, it wasn't part of the original reasons for our move and we didn't even think about it then.

The main difference between the health care system in France and in the Philippines is that in France there is a universal health care coverage anywhere in the country and in any hospitals / medical centres / doctor offices / pharmacy and etc ... That is not the case in the Philippines. There are public and private hospitals but unfortunately poverty has prevented millions of Filipinos from getting the healthcare services they need. In short, a lot of Filipinos are too poor to go to the hospital and get the treatment they actually need.

The Philippines' healthcare system relies heavily on private providers. I lived almost 20 years in the Philippines and in all those years, I have never set foot in a public hospital for medical care. As much as the medical staff are competent and highly-trained, sadly public hospitals often lack in materials and equipment. As a nursing student, I had several internship experiences in public hospitals and well ... let's just say that it didn't encourage me to be treated in one.

I hope that things have changed since I left ten years ago. But I'm not so sure about that.

France runs a statutory health insurance system providing universal coverage for its residents. Healthcare costs are paid by both the state and the individuals. It is directly taken from one's pay. But whether you are working or not, you automatically are medically-covered up to 70% for most of France. We're lucky because we live in a region of France where we are 90% covered. Call it unfair, but it's just the way it is. There's a story behind that.

The 70%-90% does not apply to every medical care. If you have a disability or a long-term condition, that can be covered at 100%. Some medical interventions are also not covered, such as dental care considered as an aesthetics procedure rather than a medical one. Make sure to read the fine prints or ask for a quotation to know how much is covered by the securité sociale or French health care and the private health insurance.

Aside from the sécurité sociale, it is mandatory to have a private health insurance. If you're working, this will be paid by the employer and employee. If you're not working, then that will be covered by the state. The private health insurance will pay for the 30% left or in our case 10%.

When I first arrived in France and I was looking for a job, I immediately filed papers to have my Carte Vitale (French health card). There's a story behind that, but that's for another day. Anyways, the Carte Vitale is a card you present every time you go to the hospital, doctor's office, or pharmacy. If you go to the hospital and you present your health card, you are guaranteed that all medical services are covered. You usually have to pay in advance at the doctor's office after your check-up but if you present your health card, you will automatically be reimbursed a couple of weeks later.

For example, a medical check-up at our family doctor costs 25€. We present our health card and pay the 25€. Then about two weeks after, we usually receive a reimbursement of 22.50€ directly to our bank account. And then, days later, we receive a reimbursement of 2.50€ to our bank account from our private health insurance.

This is a great benefit because after all, nothing else is as important as one's health. If I had given birth in France, I certainly wouldn't have paid the little fortune I did back in the Philippines. From my cesarian section to the check-ups and even Baby girl's vaccines!

It all sounds great, but there is an also a negative side to it, which is, it is sometimes or most of the time difficult to have an immediate consultation. When it became clear that baby girl needed glasses when she was around 7-8 years old, it was almost impossible to have an appointment with an eye doctor. The shortest waiting list was 6 months and that was about an hour away from our city! Crazy! Some doctors don't even accept new patients anymore! And that goes for all specialised doctor - dermatologists, ophthalmologists, and etc .. It is a disaster!

I eventually found an appointment in Luxembourg for an eye doctor which is a border country of France. Luckily, I was able to get an appointment in just a few days there.

There is a huge part of the medical system in France, which I think is flawed and needs to be worked on. There aren't enough doctors, not enough medical employees, and a lot of people go to the emergency room because they just can't get an appointment at their family doctor. So this makes the emergency rooms way too busy and crowded and impossible to manage!

That is something that we would never do, but if desperate, who knows right? When Baby Girl had the flu last month, she needed to see a doctor, but when we tried to get an appointment, the only one available was in 3 days. I just couldn't let my daughter suffer 3 more days and I didn't want to self-medicate as well. So we did the next best thing - online consultation.

Online consultation is not the ideal but in our case it was perfect. We were lucky to even have an online consultation because the available slots were quickly reserved. At the end of the consultation, we had a prescription for medication and a flu diagnosis. And we were reimbursed a few weeks later.

So I've presented you two different countries with two different systems. In one, medical healthcare is universal and accessible to all. But because of understaff issues and crowded doctor offices and hospitals, you are not always guaranteed quality care and comfort. In the other one, health care is sadly not accessible to all. Most people prefer to go to private hospitals, when they financially can. There is a price to pay, but you're guaranteed quality care and it's quick. It's all about the money.

So, this leaves me with one thought in mind - factory or business?

Both words I never would have linked to medical care.

xoxo Elodie


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