Comparison of U.S. health care to France

U.S. health care system to France

Over the last several decades the United States health care system has faced the challenges of rising costs and increasing numbers of uninsured. A good example of this can be found in a recent study conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which found that there are 49.4 million people who are without any kind of health insurance. If any kind of significant health care reform was not undertaken, (such as what recently passed) they estimate that the total number of uninsured could rise to 67.6 million in 2020. (Ledue, 2010) Because of this alarming statistic, many advocates of reform have been advocating enacting a French style health care system. Where, the doctors / providers / insurance companies will all play a vital role working with the various government entities, at providing affordable health care services to the general public. This system has been proven to be so successful, that it was ranked as the best health care system in the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The reason why is because of: their outstanding coverage options, patient / provider freedoms and responsive health providers. (Dutton, 2007) This has caused many proponents to argue that reforming the U.S. health care system along the French model will greatly reduce costs and improve the overall quality of health care services offered. To determine if such a system should be used in the United States requires that you compare: the advantages / disadvantages of both health care systems, the hospital waiting times of each, the percentage of GDP / per capita income spent on health care services and the cost of the current U.S. health reforms as well as their impact on the national debt. Together these different elements will provide the greatest insights, as to how the United States could benefit by mirroring such a model.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of both Health Care Systems

The French health care system has a loose version of universal care, meaning that the government (through Securite Sociale) created a regulated system that allowed health care providers and insurance companies to cover everyone. However, the government will regulate the industry and will provide additional funding; which helps ensure the general public can afford health care. This loosely-based confederation if you will, has allowed the health care system to enjoy a number of distinct benefits the most notable would include: the wait times are shorter. In France, Securite Sociale has created an efficient system that allows health care providers to be able to quickly take care of all billing issues. This is important because the system works off of a hybrid of: an individual paying a certain amount of out of pocket expenses each year, the insurance company paying a percentage and the government reimbursing the insurance companies. As a result, the overall waiting times at French health care providers are non-existent. When you compare this to U.S. health care system, the average wait time is 23 minutes. (“Tired of Waiting for Your Doctor,” 2006) What this shows is that when you have a collaboration of the private sector and the government working together, the overall wait times can fall dramatically.

A second advantage of the French health care system would be it has lower costs. This can be seen by comparing the costs of each health care system. Where, France spends $3,500 per person on health care services every year. This accounts for 11% of their GDP spending. While, the U.S. spend $8,000 person on health care services or 16.2% of GDP spending. (Foley, 2009) The biggest reason why health care costs are so much lower is: because the government regulates health care costs at public hospitals. This means that private doctors and health care facilities are free to determine their own prices. However, when the government sets them at other facilities this introduces a lower cost structure. As a result, many of the primary health care providers are inexpensive. It is when you begin to see specialists that the costs could begin to increase. This is basically creating a low cost primary care model that focuses on preventive medicine, helping to reduce the need to see specialists.

Despite these obvious advantages, the French health care system does have its drawbacks the most notable would include: health care services are provided from a cooperative point-of-view. This means that if someone required health care services or treatment that was not common, they may not be able to receive it. At which point, they could be required to purchase supplemental insurance and go to private clinics / hospitals. These are more expensive and the treatment options could also be limited. (Foy, 2009)

The American health care system has a number of advantages the most notable would include: innovation. Contrary to what many claim, the United States health care system is the world leader as far as innovation is concerned for: new breakthrough treatments, drugs and procedures. Where, a number of private hospitals / research facilities have become known for the cutting edge treatments that they provide to patients, on a number of different ailments / conditions. When you have the proper amount of insurance coverage or funds to pay for these services, the overall level of health care services provided is superior to anything in France. (Scott, 2010)

A second advantage of the American health care system is that tax payers do not have to pay additional taxes for government programs. France is a hybrid of the socialized and private medical system; it is funded through a payroll tax. One could argue that under the American system, there is more personal responsibility for health care. Where, the tax payers do have to pay for everyone else to receive various health care services. Over the course of time, this could cause a number of unnecessary medical procedures and bureaucratic red tape. (Scott, 2010)

The biggest disadvantage of the U.S. health care system is the large amounts of uninsured. Due to the fact, that the American health care system is based mainly on private enterprise, means that many insurance companies and health providers will try to control costs as much as possible. This is because, the more they control costs, the greater the profit they make. As a result, there are those people who lose health care insurance because they become sick or they lose their job. As they can not afford the increased premiums or their health insurance provider drops them completely. This is why the total amounts of uninsured have risen to 49.2 million. (Dutton, 2007)

According to the Congressional Budget Office the cost of the recently passed health care legislation will be $950 billion over 10 years. While at the same time, the effects of new law will lower the federal deficit by $138 billion. (“Health Care Bill to Cut Deficit,’ 2010) This is because the program will allow for fees to drop over the long-term by: creating a competitive insurance market, banning practices such as denying coverage for preexisting conditions, creating a price control commission and through the bundling of the different programs. (Klein, 2010) What this shows is that with the increased amounts of regulation and spending, the total effect of the health care legislation on the deficit will be positive.

Clearly, the French health care system is superior to United States. This is because the government plays a role in controlling costs, creating a competitive market and banning unethical practices (such as denying coverage for preexisting conditions). These different elements are what make the French system the best in the world. However, it is important to note, that they United States appears to be addressing this problem by encompassing key elements of the French system in the recently passed legislation. As result, this is why the Congressional Budget Office is estimating that in 10 years the effects of this new program will be positive on the national debt. Where, it will reduce the total amount by $138 billion in ten-year. This is despite, the fact that $950 billion is going to be spent implementing such changes. What this shows, is that when implementing the strengths of the French system with that of the American system, you can have high quality health care services and maintain costs.


Health Care Bill to Cut Deficit. (2010, March 18). Retrieved April 12, 2010 from Reuters website:

Tired of Waiting for Your Doctor. (2006, November 20). Retrieved April 12, 2010 from MSNBC website:

Dutton, P. (2007, August 11). France’s Model Health Care System. Retrieved April 12, 2010 from



Foley, T. (2009, March 8). 5 Questions about French Health Care. Retrieved April 12, 2009 from website:

Foy, A. (2009, September 10). Give Me Liberty or Give Me Health Care. Retrieved April 12, 2010 from American

Thinker website:

Klein, E. (2010, March 21). How Health Care Reform Reduces the Deficit. Retrieved April 12, 2010 from Newsweek website:

Ledue, C. (2010, March 15). Number of Uninsured Americans Could Grow By 10M in Five Years. Retrieved April

12, 2010 from Health Care Finance News website:

Scott, C. (2010). Advantages and Disadvantages of American Health Care. Retrieved April 12, 2010 from E. How


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