The French Health Care system combines universal coverage with a public-private mix of hospital and ambulatory care, higher levels of resources and a higher volume of service provision than in the United States. It is mainly financed by social insurance but there is also a significant supplementary insurance sector. About two-thirds of hospital beds are in the public sector with the remainder split between the for-profit and non-profit private sectors.
There is wide access to comprehensive health services for a population that is, on average, older than that of the United States, and yet France’s health expenditures in 2000 were equal to 9. 5% of its gross domestic product (GDP) compared with 13% of GDP in the United States (Rodwin, 2003). The French Health Care system has achieved sudden popularity since it was ranked No 1 by the World Health Organization in 2000. Although the methodology used by this assessment has often been criticized, indicators of overall satisfaction and health status support the view that France’s health care system while not the best according to these criteria is impressive and deserves attention by anyone interested in rekindling health care reform in the United States.
French politicians have defended their health system as an ideal synthesis of solidarity and liberalism (a term understood in much of Europe to mean market-based economic systems), lying between Britain’s ‘nationalized’ health service, where there is too much rationing, and the United States’ ‘competitive’ system, where too many people have no health insurance (Rodwin, 2003).
After more than a half century of struggle, in January 2000, France covered the remaining1% of its population that was uninsured and offered supplementary coverage to 8% of its population below an income ceiling. This extension of health insurance makes France an interesting case of how to ensure universal coverage through incremental reform while maintaining a sustainable system that limits perceptions of health care rationing and restrictions on patient choice.
Following is an overview of the system, its achievements, an analysis of what still needs to be done or remedied, and what the U. S. can learn from the French healthcare system (Rodwin, 2003). Health status Life expectancy increases regularly, by three months a year for men and by two months a year for women. The gap between male and female life expectancy remains high, although it is narrowing. The overall picture of the state of health in France contains apparent contradictions. On one hand, indicators such as life expectancy and life expectancy without disability show that the health of the population is good.
In terms of international comparison, women live longer and old people remain in better health. France also compares well with regard to cardiovascular diseases, while its relative position with respect to mortality caused by alcoholism, cirrhosis and cancer of the cervix is improving. On the other hand, France suffers from a high rate of premature male mortality due to smoking and accidents, and social and geographical inequalities in health remain substantial (Sandier Paris & Polton, 2004).