• Why context is important

    Rachel Ryan describes her experience with the French health care system.  She’s shocked at how good it seemed:

    I walked into the Centre de Santé – Réaumur’s emergency health center at noon and was admitted within twenty minutes.  Ten minutes later, I was meeting with the doctor.  After a thorough exam, diagnosis, and prescription, I was sent up to the 7th floor to have blood work done, simply to “verify.”  The total cost of the visit was €44, plus the additional €12 I paid at the pharmacy to fill two week-long prescriptions.  If I had been covered by French national healthcare, la Securité Sociale, the total cost of the hospital visit would have been €0.

    Though the term “bedside manner” is completely foreign to the French, the overall experience was pleasant, given the circumstances.  The doctors could not have been more attentive, the hospital was clean, and the wait was negligible, as were the costs.

    Nevertheless, I left skeptical, thinking, “it can’t be this good, what’s the catch?”

    Yes, there must be a catch, because it’s just not possible that the French system isn’t bad.  Right?  I mean, that’s what we’ve been told over and over again.  Single payer systems are just… horrible.  Right?

    So, of course, she finds the flaws:

    Le Parti Socialiste (Socialist Party), who – as of last month – gained a sweeping political majority in France’s regional elections, is now advocating a further increase in taxes in order to offset rising healthcare costs. Le Parti Socialiste is proposing an increase in the bouclier fiscal (~ tax limit), which currently states that “direct taxes paid by a taxpayer may not exceed 50% of taxpayer’s revenues” in Article 1 of the Internal Revenue Code.

    While there is no doubting that the overall level of care and minimal costs are aspirational, the French universal healthcare system is not without its drawbacks.  Just as the U.S. is currently suffering from a lack of sufficient, available healthcare and money, so is France.  Though the French system offers many short-term and long-term benefits, it is clearly not without its short-term and long-term costs.

    So the problems are (1) taxes are too high and (2) the system is too expensive.

    The issue I have with discussions like this are the use of subjective words.  There’s a lack of context.  Taxes are too high?  Well, how high are they?  Since the French bundle pretty much all health care into taxes, even if their rates are higher than ours, we’re not adding in health care costs.  Since the average family insurance plan in the United States is over $13,000, I bet this would nearly double the federal income tax burden of most Americans.  But, since we keep medical costs private, we get to claim our tax rates are lower.

    The second problem is even more laughable.  Their system has a problem with costs?  The cost of the French health care system, per person, is just under half of ours.

    Half.  50%.  I don’t know how else to say it.  If your only legitimate complaint is that a system that costs less than half of ours is too expensive, well, then you don’t really have any complaint at all.

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