Following my posting earlier this year, I can now call up reinforcements in my argument against the anti-universal-healthcare herberts in the States. John Lichfield, the Independent newspaper's Paris correspondent, had a full-page article in last Thursday's paper, stating the case professionally. "Given the challenges faced by all healthcare systems in an ageing world", he writes, "stealing successful prescriptions from friends and neighbours makes sense. Except, it seems, to the American right." Lichfield has experience of the three health regimes in question: UK, US and French.
His conclusion, paraphrasing Winston Churchill, was: "The French have the worst health system in the world, except for all the other ones that we have tried." He points out that Canada, the Netherlands and Italy, as well as France come out ahead of Britain in World Health Organisation league tables.
He balances the account by pointing out the drawbacks: the French system is not free at the point of access (though there is now available a carte vitale, a kind of health credit card, which simplifies payments) requiring the patient to pay up-front and claim back the officially-agreed rate for the treatment; and the system costs the state about a third more than the NHS does the UK (currently €157.6bn as against £100bn). The French system also positively encourages patients to shop around for treatment, as opposed to the NHS (and Dutch health service) where the point of contact is a general practitioner.