Dec 29, 2015 by


French health care is almost as beautiful as this picture.

Sometimes — ok, most of the time — we need to look outside our borders to understand just how rough working Americans have it when we talk social welfare.

Well, I hope you are sitting down. Enter some good news for French people about “paying” for the doctor.

French lawmakers on Thursday gave a final nod to a wide-ranging health care reform bill that will scrap upfront payments for doctors’ visits, despite months of protest from opposition parties and physicians dreading what some have called a “Soviet-style” system.

What does this mean? Well, basically, at present French people pay €23 when they visit a primary care doctor and then get the majority of the payment refunded by the state, and the remainder refunded by highly-affordable private insurance plans offered by employers or independently purchased. Under this new law, you will just be able to go to the doctor, get care, and the doctor and insurance funds will take care of all the money business.

Most patients in France pay their doctors upfront — usually €23 to visit a general practitioner — and get reimbursed later by the public health insurance fund, Assurance Maladie, which covers most of the cost. The rest is covered either by the patients’ complementary health insurance schemes or paid out of their own pocket.

Under the law, from November 30, 2017, doctors will have to waive these upfront fees for all patients.

The government argues this will improve access to health care and relieve public hospitals from dealing with patients who should be seeing a general practitioner but tend to go where they don’t have to pay.

While the measure is popular with a majority of French voters, according to various polls, hundreds of doctors took to the streets and went on strike over recent months to protest against it.

Wouldn’t you be jumping for joy if you only had to pay €23 ($25) to visit the doctor as a co-pay with no possibility of having any of that payment reimbursed? Like, you’d probably actually start visiting the doctor when you got sick rather than Googling symptoms on WebMD, right? And, yet, in France, the situation is already way better than that and about to become even better.

I don’t share this news to make anyone jealous of the French, but just to provide an important point of comparison — to allow you to see just how far we truly are from a socially-just health care system in the United States.

And, perhaps more importantly, to allow you to understand that there are rich, highly-developed countries in this world where elected leaders listen to — and respond to — to the demands of the people, rather than the wishes of the oligarchs.

What if I also told you that French people who work in offices without cafeterias get highly-subsidized food vouchers to be used at any cafe or restaurant? Or that those who routinely work more than 35 hours a week also get an extra two weeks of vacation a year on top of their standard month of vacation days (plus national holidays)?

Meanwhile, in the United States, the so-called “progressive Democratic frontrunner” thinks that capping out-of-pocket prescription costs at $250/month (no, not a year) is change we should applaud. (Of course, on top of that $250/month, you get to pay premiums and deductibles and co-pays for all non-drug-related health care expenses.)

Seriously, folks, if you spend just 10 minutes better understanding how social welfare and labor works in Canada, Western Europe, Australia (even parts of South America and Asia), you realize just what a raw deal Americans get.

We can do so much better — and that’s why so many of us support Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary.

Don’t listen to the self-serving DC pundits tweeting from million-dollar apartments in the heart of Washington, D.C.

You — my American friends — deserve so much better than Hillary Clinton. You deserve someone — Bernie Sanders — who will commit himself to representing the interests of working men and women, and not the oligarchy.

There are countries — France is one — where politicians listen to the people. And, in these countries, the people get health care systems that work for them. We can be one of those countries, too, but only if you choose wisely.

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