Published on NashvillePost.com
By Aileen Katcher
Throughout this week, the Nashville Health Care Council is reporting directly from its International Health Care Mission in Paris, France. Unique to Nashville and one of only a few such initiatives nationwide, this mission brings together a diverse group of key health care policy leaders and business executives for trans-Atlantic learning, high-level networking and global dialogue. To view other posts, click here.
On our first night in Paris, mission leader Senator Bill Frist summed up what this 10th International Health Care Mission is all about. He explained that, while we know that the French health care system has outcomes that surpass that of the United States achieved at a lower percentage of its GDP, few of us know much about how the system works. This week’s program will provide insight into the system, its challenges and its opportunities.
Sen. Frist also emphasized that the global friendships and networking opportunities offered through this delegation are significant and part of the Nashville Health Care Council’s organizational mission. He added that the group will not only experience the culture of Paris, but also see how Nashville’s presence is reflected in this global city as the Musee d’Orsay prepares to open a special exhibit of Nashville couple Spencer and Marlene Hays’ Impressionist collection.
To understand the French health care system, we first must understand the business climate and cultural mindset in France. In our first session, a team from the U.S. Embassy gave us an overview that highlighted the following:
• France is a major U.S. trade partner. We have a strong import and export relationship.
• While France is strong in developing technology and research and development, it lags behind in innovation and often looks to the U.S. for the investment and partnership needed to take those elements and create products and services from them.
• The French business community frowns on failure. In fact, French investors are not likely to give entrepreneurs a second chance. At the Entrepreneur Center in Paris, they have a zero failure rate based on that belief.
• The French government also plays an interventionist role in business as an investor in many of the country’s large businesses.
So what about its health care system? Health care experts from Deloitte Consulting France gave the group an overview. The French health care system is a combination of public entities and private organizations that are both for-profit and not for profit. There is a government obligation to organize the system but a strong belief in the freedom of choice. Nearly everyone in France has health insurance.
The health insurance system is based on three principles: equality of access to treatment, social solidarity and quality of treatment. Insurance is provided in three “schemes”: salaried employees (and family), unsalaried farm workers and independent workers.
The government provides oversight for the system and pays providers directly for services rendered within the system. All are encouraged to find a general practitioner to oversee their care. GP services require a co-pay of 23 euros per visit and, if referred to a specialist, a co-pay of 25 euros. Insurance covers reimbursement for most inpatient and outpatient treatments.
Sounds great, right?
The system is operating at a deficit. It faces many of the challenges we have here in the U.S. And public opinion is very divided on changing it.
In the next few days, we will learn more about the French system, its strengths and its weaknesses. Stay tuned for more insight and views from French government and private businesses involved in delivering care.