Healthcare Systems around the World: France

One of the most irritating comparisons I find on both sides of the atlantic is that of the US healthcare system to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). Now I know the US of A is the foremost world power (for how much longer is anyone’s guess) and that the British Empire once ruled the waves but come on.

There are other countries out there. Ones with wildly successful healthcare systems.

So over the next week I’m going to introduce you to some of these and where better to start than with the nation that is widely regarded as having the most successful healthcare provision globally.


Granted the WHO report of 2000 is rather past its sell by date but the reputation of the French system is still perceived as second to none so what are they doing so right?

Well, it seems to be because of their government controlled social insurance system in combination with a network of healthy agreements between non-profit insurers and private providers.

The figure above illustrates how this impacts on government spending and how it is a rather different approach to the one adopted in the UK and USA. So how does it work?

In France you make a government defined contribution in the form of social insurance from your income/payroll which go to a combination of non-profit insurers who define doctor’s rates with medical unions while the government regulates the hospital fees (of course, there are doctors working outside this in private practice). The vast majority of the population also has added insurance or are covered by their employers.

When someone gets ill their fees are between 70-85% covered by the state insurance system and the rest through a combination of employers’ and additional insurance systems. If you suffer from a long term condition and its complications then the social system will cover 100% of your care and will ensure that the latest therapies are available options to you.

No postcode lotteries here. The sicker you are, the more you’re covered.

Healthcare is truly universal.

The really impressive part is that this system has inbuilt choice and flexibility. Patients still have significant choice in who they go and see and when. Waiting lists are no where near being the plague they are in the UK. In fact, waiting lists don’t really exist. If you need care you can in most cases get it on the same day or within a very short period of time.

Since, this is effectively an all-encompassing government mandated system then it is loaded with bureaucracy and is expensive but it doesn’t hamper patient care. It even appears to be sustainable and to think that this was all inspired by the same Beveridge report which inspired the NHS all those years ago!

No wonder the French are so happy.

Happy French Bulldog is Happy

Agree or Disagree? Have your say, tweet me @Saif_Abed

Dr Saif F Abed
Founding Partner
AbedGraham Healthcare Strategies Ltd


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