Socialized Medicine in France: What Comes After the Colon.
Let's face it, it's easy to have contempt for the French. Has there ever been a people so painfully self-unaware? There's no country quite as chauvinistic as France and yet they're first in line to criticize Americans for *gasp* preferring the simplistic American Way of Life. They maintain a political system that, whether oscillating wildly between left-of-center socialism or center-left statism, maintains a fetid core of crony capitalism and corruption. They defend without shame, remorse or UN resolution whatever they perceive as their interests (I actually admire this) all the while chanting "No Blood for Oil" at you-know-who.
All this to say that mocking the French is light and pleasant work, often profitable, always sweet.
And yet--you sensed there was a "yet", right?--and yet, well first, a little back story: In late August 2011 I was diagnosed with chronic constrictive pericarditis, a rare disease, confirmed after a month's worth of tests & scans and one that requires, eventually, intrusive surgery. Namely, cracking open the sternum like a lobster tail, spreading the ribs with the jack from the back of an SUV and cutting away the thickened, scarred and calcified pericardium that was compressing my heart. My cardiologist spent an entire afternoon-into-evening visiting me at the clinic, consulting other specialists, making calls and finally coming up with a surgeon who had not only performed an impressive number of pericardiectomies --chose rare!, but was also the head of the service at St. Joseph's Hospital in Paris.
Shortly thereafter, I met with the surgeon and anesthesiologist. Next week I was on the operating table.
I had been asked if I preferred having the surgery in the US; I thought it over for a few seconds and answered no. I was just simply reassured by these doctors whom I perceived as consummate pros. The hospital was spotless --they hadn't had a case of staph infection in years and were absolutely vigilant about maintaining that record. The doctors, interns, nurses, aids, orderlies were uniformly professional, courteous, pleasant, funny-- I've taken vacations that were more uncomfortable than my hospital stay. And, most important, the operation was a total success and today I have more energy than I've had since High School.
Now, Mark Steyn has some chilling tales of the state of national healthcare in the UK and Canada, but my experience tells me that in France, it actually works. Er, for now. Of course it's unsustainable, even the French know that, and many rural areas are not at all as well served as in Paris, but in the end, France has socialized medicine because the French overwhelmingly want socialized medicine, and are willing to not only pay high taxes for it, but also live with the lower incomes the socialized system engenders. Furthermore it is egalitarian in nature: the rich, who are taxed heavily have an equal right to the services, unlike a heinous progressive plan wherein higher taxes translate to little, if any access to "free" healthcare.
Sadly, I am not rich but for 20 some odd years I have been paying roughly 1/3 of income for social services and supplementary private health insurance, so I have no qualms about saying that stepping out of the hospital after major surgery and a nearly three week stay, I paid out of pocket, nothing. (Except for the standard fee for in-room TV which I hardly used because I was reading Neal Stephenson's REAMDE on the Kindle, the novel which just keeps going, and going... Or maybe that was the morphine. Whatever.) I was, and still am until 2013, covered 100% for any and all medical expenses including prescription drugs relating to this condition.
"Hold up there, dash", I hear you saying, "One minute you're mocking the French with reckless abandon and in the next you're saying you like their national health care? What gives."
To paraphrase Chuck Yeager: I don't advise it, you understand, but it can be done. Not efficiently and probably not for very much longer, but if you want it bad enough, as the French seem to--across the whole political spectrum--then socialized medicine is what you'll have.
As a system it's not exactly stellar: It's widely abused, costly, inefficient, wasteful, clearly unsustainable and as such offers diminishing returns. In practice, except for certain interventions (such as mine), you will need a supplementary private health insurance because the national plan reimburses less each year.
It should be noted also that malpractice judgments are very limited here as compared to those stateside; it would be fiscally imprudent to nationalize healthcare without first reforming tort law. And by imprudent I mean suicidal.
So serve a paper and sue me, sue me shoot bullets through me. I wouldn't do it this way, I don't particularly recommend it, and I certainly wouldn't try to ram it down the throats of an unwilling nation, giant gavel in hand, but it's not a lake of fire either. Call me a squishy RINO if you must; I cannot totally condemn this system, but neither should l I be surprised if some time soon it all comes tumbling down.