Friday, December 15, 2006

La Sécu

I think it's pretty widely known that France has a very good national health care system: La Sécurité Sociale, or la Sécu, as they call it here. French adults enter the system when they begin working; their employers pay a hefty tax into the system to help support it. All residents of France pay another tax to help support the system. I've heard many criticisms of the French system that go kind of like this: it costs way too much for a country to give practically free health care to its citizens and the French system runs huge deficits, so it can't be good.

Well, the USA certainly doesn't provide inexpensive health care to its citizens, but the nation is running the highest deficits in its history. If you're going to have the high deficits anyway, why not get some health care out of it? I guess it's just a question of priorities. Some Americans talk a lot about family values, but basic health care doesn't seem to be one of them.

AS for France, my impression is that French doctors are not, generally, wealthy people as they can be in the USA. Although with managed health care providers (corporations) employing many doctors these days and with the cost of malpractice insurance, I'm not sure becoming a doctor in the USA is as lucrative as it once was. French doctors make a decent living and provide a decent, inexpensive service to their communities.

A few years ago, the French passed a law that opened coverage to all legal residents of the country regardless of whether they're employed. Ken and I just found this out by doing some internet research on that tax that we have to pay to help support the system. We thought we were exempt from the tax since we're not part of the system. But no, everyone pays the tax. That makes sense because everyone can be covered by the Sécu!

Wow, we thought, why didn't we figure this out before? We've heard of people who "bought into" the Sécu, but we couldn't figure out how they did it. We've been paying American companies large premiums for coverage that will only handle major medical emergencies like accidents or catastrophic illness. We have no wellness or prevention coverage at all, and we shudder to think what the process would be if we actually had to submit a claim while dealing with an accident or illness. Would we have to fight with an overseas company about reimbursement? Would we be successful?

We have been paying full price for doctor/dentist visits, prescription drugs, and routine lab tests since we've lived in France. It's true that these costs are not very high to begin with. Fortunately, we haven't needed anything more complicated so far, knock on wood. As part of the French system, we'd get 70% of those costs back, and be covered for many other things whether preventative or not. The premiums are based on income. People who are self-employed and those with limited income pay a percentage of whatever income they have. From my view, it's not burdensome. And that's certainly, in our case, much more reasonable than what one could pay for private insurance that only covers catastrophic events.

So, since we are legal residents, we downloaded the forms (again, what would we do without the internet?) and sent in our applications to join the system. We got them back a few days ago with some minor requests for additional information, which we've supplied. In theory, our coverage began on the day the Sécu received our applications. It may take a few weeks for them to fully process us.

Health care (or the lack of it) is a huge source of stress for many people. I must admit, I've never been really comfortable that the insurance we have would be all that it purports to be. And, as we get older, doctor and lab visits seem to come more frequently. It would give me great peace of mind to become part of the national system here. It would also save us some money, and with the value of the US dollar constantly shrinking, every savings counts!

Here's to your good health.


  1. I'll drink to that! To our good health

  2. And here's to your peace of mind! I hope it all goes smoothly.

  3. Claude & Ginny - mille mercis ! We're hoping it goes well, too.

  4. Don't get me started! All your observations nail it. Good for you.


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