Real-time French health care

Author: fraise

Friday 4 September 2009, in Journal, La France

I’ve had a gurgly stomach and painful abdominal cramps since Monday. Since my stomach is generally able to withstand pretty much anything I throw at it (the only exceptions being gluten and casein), I figured it would get better, but instead it’s worsened gradually. I could barely sleep last night for the pain, and was unable to move due to cramping after eating breakfast.

So, this morning I emailed our offices to let them know I was ill, then called my general practitioner at 9:20 am. My regular doctor wasn’t available until tomorrow morning, so I asked if another was. (I’m grateful to have found an office with three doctors, all of whom are good, upon my arrival in Nice nine years ago.) Another was indeed able to take me at 10 am — 40 minutes later. I took a quick shower, then walked to the doctors’ office, which takes 10 minutes.

I waited a half an hour, reading a couple issues of L’Observateur. Then the doctor examined me, diagnosing a bad case of indigestion, and prescribed me a proton pump inhibitor to take for a month (pantoprazole for anyone curious), an antispasmodic, and rest. He gave me an arrêt maladie (permission for work absence due to illness) for today, ran my carte vitale through his reader, and I wrote him a check for 22 euros, all of which will be reimbursed by the sécu and my supplementary insurance.

Then I went to a nearby pharmacy to fill the prescriptions. I presented my carte vitale; they already have my supplementary insurance on file. The pharmacist replaced the branded medications with generics, wrote the correspondences on the boxes so I’d know which was which, put them in a bag, and said “bonne journée, au revoir !” The medications are fully reimbursed, so I didn’t have to pay anything.

I was home by 11 am. It took less than two hours for me to make a doctor’s appointment, take a shower, go to the appointment, get diagnosed, pick up medication, and walk home. Total cost, once the 22 euros are reimbursed (tomorrow): Zero. Although I will admit the walk wasn’t much fun considering how tired and weak I am, but still, it was free monetarily speaking. It’s taking all the self-restraint I have not to make a scathing remark comparing this French experience to the US. And in my ten years in France, this experience is the norm — I usually get an appointment on the same day, within a couple hours of calling.

Related post explaining more about France’s sécu, the carte vitale, supplementary insurance, and why I paid at the doctor but not the pharmacy: Health care in France – Basics

5 responses to “Real-time French health care”

  1. Bruce B Says:

    Sorry to hear you were sick. Glad you’re in France, where this kind of health care is absolutely *normal* to the point of being completely banal. ;-D

  2. fraise Says:

    So normal and banal indeed, that my European friends are probably going to think I’m terribly weird for writing about a bad tummy ache on the Internet :-) I’m going to have to explain how a GP appointment can cost $250 again! (That was what my brother was charged recently for an allergy medication prescription – he didn’t even see the doctor, just asked for a prescription renewal. And yes, that’s $250 just for the prescription, not for the medication itself.)

  3. Bruce B Says:

    $250 just for the prescription!!! For allergy medication?!?. Must be some kinda’ crypto/commie/fascist/marxist gum’mint plot! Oh wait, he was able to pay only 20% of that $250 just for the prescription, ’cause insurance companies get 30% to 40% of that, so it must be okay. [sigh…]

  4. hammy Says:

    I hope you feel better! And I hope the school appointment went well :)

  5. Health Defender Says:

    Such healthcare issues made my friend move out of her country, looks like I will do the same…

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