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Is French Health System a Model for U.S.?

Is French Health System a Model for U.S.?

The Dallas Morning News

May 18, 2009

PARIS — Houston native Jennifer Hua gave birth to her first two children in Texas, and her last two in France. The Houston hospital looked like a luxury hotel. The hospital in Paris was a converted prison.

Amenities aside, she prefers Paris.

The American health care model, she says, is too expensive and too insecure. France offers her family good medical treatment, better insurance, more convenience and no worries about how to pay medical bills if her husband’s job changes.

“If we were to consider returning to the U.S., health care would be one of my top concerns,” the Rice University alum said.

Dallas native Anna Marie Mattson heads the University of Texas alumni group in France (Texas Exes). She’s lived in Paris since 1990 and has seen members of her family go through hospitalizations. Mattson says the French model encourages people to put health ahead of economic anxiety.

“Under the U.S. system, I never wanted to get sick, and when I did, I went to the pharmacy to try to find a way to treat myself,” she said. “In France, you go to the doctor immediately.”

As America seeks a better way to provide medical care, France offers an example of a system where everyone has government-provided, basic health insurance — citizens and immigrants alike. Expenses for such chronic illnesses as cancer, diabetes and multiple sclerosis are covered entirely by the state so patients can focus on treatment rather than financial ruin.

But if France is instructive on health security, it also shows how high, vexing medical bills push government into a constant reform struggle. Lately, the French are taking a page or two from the U.S. playbook to try to cope by exploring managed-care practices.

Rice University alum Elizabeth Dutertre, who’s lived in France since 1968, has had good and bad experiences with French health care.

“Many liberal Americans are convinced that the French system is the be-all and end-all solution to health care costs in the United States,” she said. “But the system is costly to both the workers and the state. In fact, it is going bankrupt.”

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