French health care: comparisons with US

Author: fraise

Sunday 16 August 2009, in La France

In my previous post on French health care, I went over the basics of how things are done here. In this post I’ll compare some statistics, citing Canada and the UK as well since those two countries have often been the focus of recent debate in the US.

The last time the World Health Organisation (WHO) ranked world health systems was in 2000 — they no longer produce rankings since it’s so complex a task. Here are how the four countries fared:
1. France
18. United Kingdom
30. Canada
37. United States
Countries such as Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Chile also ranked higher than the US.

Life expectancy has become part of the debate in the US currently. These rankings were taken from the list of countries by life expectancy:
8. France, with an overall life expectancy of 80.87 years
14. Canada, overall life expectancy 80.34 years
37. United Kingdom, overall life expectancy 78.7 years
45. United States, overall life expectancy 78.06 years
The French live nearly 3 years longer than Americans, on average.

Another key issue is pregnancy and childbirth. Here are a few stats taken from Wikipedia’s list of countries by infant mortality rate. The first number is the infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births, and the second is the under-five mortality rate per 1,000 live births:
Iceland: 2.9 and 3.9 (they have the best numbers)
France: 4.2 and 5.2
Canada and the UK: 4.8 and 6.0
USA: 6.3 and 7.8

In France, pregnant women have 3 sonograms and blood tests (one per trimester), with a three-hour blood test around the 4-month mark. All covered at 100%. Anything beyond that’s deemed necessary is also covered 100%. Mothers-to-be get 6 weeks of paid vacation legal minimum before their birth date — it can be extended, for instance if the pregnant woman lives more than an hour’s commute from her offices. They then get 10 weeks after giving birth. Fathers get 11 days of paid vacation (18 days if they’re father to twins or more). Postpartum exams are covered. Parents are given allocations familiales depending on their need; all get a basic “starter” minimum of several hundred euros. There are also allocations to help cover childcare if/when the mother returns to work. Mothers have the option of working 4 days a week instead of 5; fathers can now do this too (but only one member of the couple can do this, and there is a sort of “salary cut” in that a few — less than 10 — vacation days are removed if they choose the “4/5 work week” as it’s called).

All this and per capita, in France we pay half what Americans do: Health Care Spending in the United States and OECD Countries (2007).

From another scientific study, Americans Spend More on Health Care But Are Not Healthier:

The study is the first to use a universal set of standards to compare the quality of health care in the five countries surveyed. The researchers found that no country scored the best or worst overall and that each country was the best and worst in at least one area. The study is published in the May/June 2004 issue of the journal Health Affairs.

Peter S. Hussey, lead author of the study and a doctoral candidate in the Department of Health Policy and Management, said, ”It is well known that the United States spends much more on health care per capita than other countries, and it is commonly assumed that we have the best health care system in the world. However, the results of our study show that the United States performs better than other countries in only a few areas, while performing worse in others. This raises the question of what Americans receive for all of the money devoted to health care.”

8 responses to “French health care: comparisons with US”

  1. Bruce B Says:

    You should copy your excellent, reasoned, reality-based and succinct comparisons to some US based blogs, and/or post them in the comments sections. Unfortunately, in the US, reality has a left of center bias.
    For us US citizens who’ve lived under a good health care system, seriously reforming the US system is really a no-brainer, and some of the other-planet based fear mongering is just, well, I have trouble believing that so many people have been brainwashed.

  2. fraise Says:

    I actually did the opposite — these posts here are taken from comments I’ve posted elsewhere. I wanted to put everything in one (well, two) spot(s).

    Feel free to link to them, the title of each post has a permalink.

  3. Adella Says:

    Bless you for telling it like it is!
    The debate here in the US has become overheated and filled with partisan invective. The right wing has overtaken the issue with its loud disruptions of public meetings and the media have fallen for the trick. What a shame!

  4. Rosalyn Says:

    Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the pictures
    aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same results.

  5. fraise Says:

    Yeah, if you’re going to try to comment-spam your website (whose link I have removed), you could perhaps try looking for posts that actually have images.

  6. Naadloze sokken Says:

    Bless you for telling it like it is!
    The debate here in the US has become overheated and filled with partisan invective. The right wing has overtaken the issue with its loud disruptions of public meetings and the media have fallen for the trick. What a shame!

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  8. Daevasree Says:

    Awesome post.

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