Thursday, October 1, 2015

An experience or two with the French healthcare system

Prior to leaving for France, I saw all of my doctors so that I could make it an entire year without needing healthcare.   I even had an MRI to rule out a brain tumor!   One of the reasons I did not want to have to go to a doctor in France was that I was not sure about insurance and how complicated it would be to file a claim.  The other reason was that I was not sure I trusted French doctors.  In the US, I would research a doctor's credentials prior to choosing him/her, but how do you do that in France?  I know nothing about French med schools, so whatever I found would be meaningless.

Well, unfortunately, we have been here but a few months, and I have been to the doctor's office twice already!!!  The first time was so that Joanie could play volleyball.  In France, you must have a doctor examine you and sign off that you are healthy enough to play a sport.   I made an appointment with  a doctor who came highly recommended by Michael and Pascal (our landlords). 

Upon arriving at the doctor's office, we were told to walk down the hall to the waiting room.  The waiting room was small, and the perimeter was lined with plastic patio chairs.  Like this....

Mind you, they were not all white.  Some were green.

OK...I do not know about you, but I do not think that any of my doctors back in the USA have chairs like these in their waiting rooms.  I even think that the chairs in the waiting room at my mechanic are nicer than these.  I know, I probably sound like a snob, but I am just being honest.  It was such a contrast to what I am accustomed, that it made me a little nervous. [Of course, in the U.S., you need to have comfortable chairs in the waiting room because you spend so much time in the waiting rooms of doctors - unsolicited comment from Rick.]

The doctor came out and greeted us.  We entered his office, which had an examination table in a small room off to the side.  We told the doctor why we were there, and he entered Joanie's name and other pertinent information into his computer.  When it came to examining her, he checked her blood pressure and pulse, had her do 20 squats, and checked her pulse again.  She has never had an exam like that, so she gave him her finest frown!   And while she was not graceful about it, she succeeded in accomplishing that task!  The doctor signed the form, and then it was time to pay.

This is where it seems like we were in a dream.....he pulls out a little zippered pouch and says that I pay him directly.  Total cost of the visit = 23€!  No filing of insurance forms or any other paperwork.  I pay him and we are out the door.  No future letters from the insurance company telling us that we have not met the deductible and will need to pay the remaining 180€ balance!  This fact alone makes me want to stay in this country!

The second visit to the doctor was unfortunately because of a shoulder ailment that I have been dealing with for the past couple of months.  I put off seeing the doctor because I had already seen the somewhat archaic examination room and had hoped that my shoulder might miraculously get better.  Unfortunately, it seemed to be getting worse, so I finally decided that maybe if I saw him, he could refer me to a good physical therapist.  

I had an appointment for yesterday afternoon.  I had ridden my bike that morning, and I had a mishap on the bike.  Angers has a tram that runs through town...

...the street that I was on had a tram track on it.  My bike wheel got caught in the track and over I went.  Right on my bad shoulder!  Bummer!  Big bummer!  Fortunately I had my appointment with the doctor that afternoon, so he could address any additional damage the tram track may have caused.

When I arrived at the doctor's office, I was better prepared, since I had already been there once before.  Appointment went fine; he diagnosed me with tendonitis and gave me a prescription.  Again, payment was directly with him.....23€!  But it gets better.  I take the prescription to the pharmacy to be filled.  Memories of Rite Aid are with me at the counter as the pharmacist asks me if I have an insurance card.  I said that I did not.  Preparing myself for at least 50€ in medication, I am shocked when she tells me I owe 11€.  She asks me if I want a receipt to file with my insurance company.  I told her, "Ça ne vaut pas la peine" (while the actual translation is "It's not worth it," I happen to like the literal translation, "It's not worth the pain"....which seems to be a much better translation when talking about American insurance companies!

Needless to say, I have been pleasantly surprised with the French healthcare system.  It may not be the fanciest, but if it gets the job done, who am I to complain!  

À votre santé!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Glad to hear your first couple of experiences at the French doctor were good ones. ;-) Overall I enjoy the healthcare here as well -- always feels nice knowing medical care won't bankrupt you.

    About the chairs, I've encountered more doctors with casual waiting rooms like what you've noted than luxurious ones. Most doctors here are far from rich (unlike doctors in the US) since there's no price gouging on medical care so doctors don't put a lot of money into things like chairs. They just don't have it.

    You might like this post I wrote:

    And I've written a few other doctor related ones too. ;-)