'Give me your tired, your poor'

Sometimes, my blood gets to the boiling point where I could scream and yell about a lot of things... It makes me feel younger though.

So a big thank you to my niece Nancy who lives in America the Beautiful! This girl is bright and doesn’t beat around the bush. I love her!

So one of her blog entries got me thinking (screaming?) all day long. Her blog  and especially one comment to her blog.

Social Security is a basic Human Right. Go check the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted during the UN General Assembly on December 10th, 1948, in Paris.

Wikipedia will do the job better and faster than me. Go check, people.

I’m French but I know a few things about the American Health
program... I was hoping that my experience from last century was part of bygone days.

I’ll never forget the day my neighbour came crying to my door and told me her dad had died of a heart attack. I knew her father had been in the hospital for heart problems. I thought everything was fine.

Well, things had been fine until upon leaving the hospital, he was presented with the bill. He died instantly. This is not a joke. Since he no longer could pay his bill, it was sent to his widow... who had to pay it with the help of her grown-up children (and selling their house, if I remember well) because her husband’s excellent health insurance was not covering all expenses... (imagine, open-heart surgery +++)

At the same time, in France, my best friend’s father was diagnosed with cancer. He went to the hospital, had surgery, and everything else. He never had to worry about his bill since the French Social Security was taking care of it.

Our system is a little bit complicated but it’s been working quite well, considering that every year, someone screams wolf and it’s still working.

Unlike most European countries, the French Social Security covers mainly three branches: illness, old age and family. It is financed by the employees and their employers.

I’ll talk today about the «illness» part.

Being financed by employees and employers, it gets a little bit touchy when France is hit by an economic crisis because then fewer people pay for more people since the unemployed people keep their health benefits without paying for them.

We are probably more socialists than we think because so far, I’ve never heard anyone complaining about financing health insurance for laid off workers... unless they belong to the far right (and are extremely hateful).

So this has not been an issue in France so far. We even now have Social Security for homeless people.

The only problem may be that people are not grateful enough abouth this system and tend to think that since they are paying for it, they can use it the way they want to...

It’s a little bit harder now but a few years ago, you could consult one doctor on Monday and not feel happy with his/her prescription/diagnosis. On Wednesday, you could consult another one and get another prescription filled. No problem. Ouch.

Nowadays, it’s a little bit more difficult. We have been asked to choose one doctor (a GP usually) and then we were issued a «Carte Vitale», a green card which contains the name of your doctor and drugstore... supposedly not to go consult too many of them and get too many presciptions filled. In compensation, you do not need to pay anything if you’ve chosen the right doctor!

If you refuse to use the «Carte Vitale», your doctor’s bill and prescription will be reimbursed anyway... minus a few euros from your own pocket. When you make an appointment, you are told the doctor’s fee so that you have the choice to get a cheaper one (which does not mean a worse one) or/and stick to the one you first chose.

I know it may sound heavenly to lots of people, especially when you know that France has made agreements with other countries... like Great Britain, allowing British citizens to come and have surgery in France, etc.

We have a lot of extremely good hospitals where you do not need to pay one cent out of your pocket if you have the Carte Vitale. And they do not throw you out after a few days following a huge health problem.

It sounds heavenly but it will only keep on working if people realize how lucky they are and slow down on their extensive use of the system. Well, this is France.

We may have a problem though concerning medical research. It’s State funded which means «taxes» funded. Which explains the dire state of research compared to the US which rely on their industry and corporate sponsorship. But I'm pretty sure we do not steal your 'medicine recipes'. We do have labs.

Ok, you are great... We learn a lot from you...

But we do get Nobel Prizes from time to time!

Now I’d like to tell you a few things about my own experience.

I’ve been repeatedly talking about going to the American Hospital in Paris. Its name dates back to the early XXth century when the American army needed a great hospital for the boys at war. They created the structure. But now it’s no longer an American Hospital. It’s French and a very good hospital to boot.

The Social Security reimburses its doctors’ fees and prescriptions. But you don’t need a «Carte Vitale» there. Which means that you pay and get reimbursed.

I chose the AH when I was diagnosed with cancer for many reasons, most of them are very private. But if you read my blogs regularly, you’ll understand most of them.

There you’ll find a lot of extraordinary GPs and specialists. Most of them work there only part of the time. They also work in other hospitals where they also teach (our med schools involve a lot of hospital training). They are French. Well, not all of them. My rhumatologist was born Uruguayan!

When cancer n°1 hit, I was living in Belgium (still am) but being French, I could use Social Security for expats and go back to France for treatment or the Belgian Social Security and remain in Belgium. I chose to go back to France mainly because cancer is not the top priority of Belgian hospitals. (They are great in other fields like fertility problems and Alzheimer, etc.)

We chose to pay for the treatment and ask for reimbursement (which was done very quickly anyway). It was a good experience because honestly, we had no idea whatsoever how much a serious illness could cost. We were appalled. So many people do not realize how expensive it can get when you are extremely sick. I’d say that compared to the cost of chemo medicines, the oncology department fee was peanuts.

I remember the time when my husband had to go to the ‘General Drugstore’. (There is only one in France, in Paris and that’s where hospitals and drugstores buy very  specialized/classified medicines in order to prevent any kind of drug trafficking.)

We had a prescription for two shots (my platelets were becoming nonexistent). It was faster to get them directly from the GD (with my oncologist’s prescription - since I was in Brussels at that time). So we paid for them directly. Awesome. 1.000€ (abt 1.300$) per shot. Wal-Mart? I don’t think so. Of course, they were totally reimbursed a couple of weeks later. Lucky French people!

When cancer n°2 struck, we decided to let our Social Security take charge of everything. I imagine I didn’t like realizing how much of a charge on society I could be while fighting such a terrible illness.

Realizing the cost of cancer has been a very sobering experience. Of course, we have been paying our contributions to Social Security all our life long, ever since we started working so I had the ‘right’ to be treated free of charge.

But isn’t it wonderful to think that in France, an unemployed person, someone permanently jobless and homeless, etc. will get the same treatment for free?

Who would then mind paying contributions while holding a job and being in good health?

Today, I was telling one of my American friends about Nancy’s blog. Lots of Americans (educated and sort of wealthy) are choosing to get surgery  and dental care in Europe or other countries like Thailand, he said, because it ends up being quite cheap and the doctors are good!

Let’s have a laugh. Just imagine two planes crossing in the skies. One filled with Egyptians going to the States to get ripped off and the other one filled with happy Americans going away to get good but cheaper care somewhere else!

Nobody is perfect.

Hang on, America. Remember Emma Lazarus’ words?

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles, From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Pardon me for remembering them. After all, didn’t we offer the Statue of Liberty to you as a token of an unfailing friendship?

*Good Night, and Good Luck*


Nancy said...

Thank you, Marie. :)

Myrna said...

Amen and amen.

Patrick Layton said...

As sad as some stories are, and as mush as I dislike America (which is true) your words ring out with a truth that so many people need to hear, but miss in their daily lives. Keep on writing, and telling it how it is :)