Health Care Reform Law Protests at the US Supreme Court, Washington DC on Tuesday afternoon, 27 March 2012 CC2.0 by Elvert Barnes Photography.
Health Care Reform Law Protests at the US Supreme Court, Washington DC on Tuesday afternoon, 27 March 2012 CC2.0 by Elvert Barnes Photography.

For the French youth, the USA is the land of all opportunities. The powerful “American dream” myth. But the adventure also had an unexpected surprise: the health costs.

“After the price I paid at a hospital once, I decided to put a note in my wallet saying: “ if I have an accident, take me to a free clinic and not to a hospital!” said Levanah. The 22 year old French went to Seattle to work as a nanny . She wanted to discover American culture while improving her English skills.  The young lady had experienced the whole package of what living in the USA means and it started with dealing with getting sick.  One day, for example, she had food poisoning so she went to urgent care in a private hospital.  Once there, “they putted me in a room for three hours and did multiples exams not linked to my stomach problem (muscles, brain etc. )  In the end  I paid 8000$ dollars to get a doliprane and anti- inflammatory”. Hopefully, her employer paid half of it.  But she was in debt for the next three years. Like her, 28 millions of Americans can’t afford insurance and they are threatened to be in massive debt in case of a problem like this. She adds, laughing, “it costs you a kidney and a half for a health consultation in the Usa”. A basic consultation for a doctor can start at 150$.  In France, this situation is unthinkable even if the people without insurance paid no more than 26$  in a hospital. The cost of an afternoon hang out at Starbucks with the homies.

The USA:  medical cost black sheep for a reason

The country is specially known for being the most innovative in the world. Not only in the plastic surgery, but in the whole medical field. Do you need an evidence? Are their 219 Nobel prize in medicine enough? The French are far behind with only 13 awards. And there is a main difference: money. It’s everywhere in the American health industry. Look at an hospital parking lot, in the area dedicated to the physicians cars: Porsche, BMW, Mercedes…

Based on a 2019 Medscape study in France a doctor makes 98 339 euros versus 285 031 for an American one. Result of the social security system that benefited the French citizens since World War 2. Another revolution could have burst otherwise.

Alex  Borut, an American living now in Toulouse highlights the absurdity of this “ fucked up” system: “while my dad  was going to  his office in Chicago,  he had to give a ride to a cyclist that had a car accident because he was ready to run bleeding! Only to avoid paying an ambulance…”

Even the Americans with insurance are not out of trouble. They don’t visit a physician every time they need to.  And for a good reason: the “deductibles”that certainly get the “Most Hated System”  award. It’s the amount they have to spend before the insurance covers the bills. Alex’s family has a plan at 2000$ .  Then, you better be well organized: «We made sure that all the big medical expenses will fall together so we don’t have to pay it multiple times” explained the young man while lighting his cigarette. “That’s why when my mother had cancer or my father had surgery, I did all my checkups,” revealed the student, fed up with a reason: Imagine each time you need to go to the doctor you have to plan a family reunion before.

In France such a system doesn’t exist, the insurance pay for almost everything. Alex analyze « the main difference between the two countries is that in France you don’t wait until your situation gets worse to go to a physician. In the USA you go only if you have a life threatening problem”. The student who lived practically all his life in Chicago was shocked when he had to go to the hospital in Marseille, after a street aggression « I only paid 100 euros for an internal hemorrhaging, broken ribs. I can’t imagine the cost in the USA!”.

This unimaginable cost is due to the lack of attention from the American government. There, they trust the market (and the dollar king). In France the government limits the excess, when it doesn’t fix the prices… In The United States it’s the hunger games between the hospital and the pharmaceutical industry. And the loser is the customer. The situation is such that one third of the money raised on GoFundMe in 2017 went towards medical fees. In France we mostly raise money for birthday parties.  Just yesterday, Marcus Beatty, who suffers from stiff man syndrome (a rare neurological disorder) posted a found pot on Facebook. « I have tried everything to finance it on my own without success. All donated funds will help pay for the cost of treatment » regret the forty year old man from Ohio. He is trying to get 10 million dollars. To survive he needs to be a millionaire.