(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)
Friday, March 19, 2010
so, pretty much without warning, my cold or flu returned with a vengeance early Monday morning. I awoke with a sore throat. At first I thought it might be because I smoked a couple of cigs Sunday but no...by afternoon, my fever, sneeze, coughs were in full bloom.
I decided to wait and see how it progressed. I hoped because I had been sick before maybe this was just a few leftovers. Tuesday was my date for the eye doctor, but coincidentally ... the doctor rescheduled due to a personal emergency. Frankly, I didn't feel like going anyway.
I'm not sure, but maybe it is being American and dealing with that crap health system...I seem ingrained to just try and ride things out. Health care providers make it so difficult and unappealing to see a doctor that even those that have coverage don't always get the best of care ... it is often just too much work. But when an earache also developed.... I caed.
Wednesday morning, after a night of coughing and general malaise...(and rather testy commentary from Jean-Yves)...I called the doctor. I was given an appointment for the afternoon. Simple as that, even though my doctor is on maternity leave... I arrived and waited about 30-40 minutes to be seen. The waiting room held 3 folks in front of me. The doctor was profusely apologetic as I entered! I, on the other hand, was just thankful and impressed to not have been sent to some emergency room or clinic somewhere.
She examined me, chatted and also gave me a referral for another minor situation I had been meaning to make an appointment for (skin related, if you must know...nosy articles... heh heh). I paid my 22€, 21€ of which will be reimbursed due to my mutuelle.
She gave me 2 prescriptions and I went on to the pharmacie. I have yet to receive my plastic card, but my pharmacie just gathered my paper cards, looked me up in the system, registered me and handed me a bag with my drugs. I thought for sure I would have to pay and then be reimbursed, but no. Not a penny!
Today, the doctor phoned for a brief follow-up.
She had also helpfully suggested I call on my Carte Vitale since I couldn't remember if I sent in a photo or not. If not, that is the reason for the delay.
I started the antibiotics last night, but had a horrible night of coughing with a very painful throat and chest. When she called, she said that hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.
I started back on the Fervex because it helps me sleep.
I'm still kind of in shock and yet overwhelmingly grateful regarding my health care. I earn it through my residency status where I pay into the system according to French laws. I also think, given my positive experiences, I'll be more inclined to use the system due to its ease. In more cynical lands, this is considered a bad thing. Here, "c'est normal" to use your docteur to support your good health.
Also, just as a side note, because some have inquired. I am paying 30€ a month for a mutuelle. The more I think about it, the less I think I really needed it. Many French I know use only the government provided care. Their most important needs are covered fully (for instance, hospital, etc. is fully reimbursed). The mutuelle adds add'l reimbursement for your doctor visit. Everyone is reimbursed about 17€ for their visit (or really, pays 5€ and presents their card, the doctors are reimbursed the rest). The prescriptions are reduced. Eyeglasses and dental visits are partially reimbursed as well.
A mutuelle reimburses the difference between what the government has alloted for basic things like dr. visits, etc. Also, a policy will for instance, allow you to have a private hospital room or 2 bed room instead of maybe being in a room with 4 beds (completely covered by gov't). Or you can choose a private hospital or therapy clinic versus the public facility. So you get more frills and non-critical gaps filled. The more seriously ill you are, the more the government covers (because these life-threatening situations such diabetes, cancer, etc. are the most expensive). Also certain individuals with inability to pay are reimbursed 100%.
The coverage is regularly evaluated and I have heard some French bemoan the fact that certain things are no longer covered completely (like kinotherapy, etc.). The government sets the rates for all basic procedures. And this is where, if one has the need or desire for those things ... or maybe more frequently visits a doctor (like an older person) one would by the add'l policy.
But every resident in France qualifies for and receives a standard level of care that is extremely good and very efficient. I think I may have gone into overkill mode. This year, with the mutuelle, I intend to get new eyeglasses and catch up on deferred dental visits, etc.
But, other than this recent illness, in general I'm not sure if the extra money for the mutuelle is warranted unless those 'extras' are required.
I'm certainly no expert on either system, but overall it is simple to see all the many benefits to the patients and citizens.
Here are some links to articles on the system here. Another big difference between France and the U.S. is how they treat 'emergency' care. The French use doctors in emergency vehicles which are more fully equipped to not only assess and stabilize a patient on site (the US system with EMTs)... but can fully treat more scenarios to the point of sometimes avoiding the hospital altogether ... or get a patient on a treatment regime and straight to a hospital bed vs. an emergency room (another step in the process).
Business Week article