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We Should Envy France’s Health Care Finance Problems

By Matthew Yglesias  

"We Should Envy France’s Health Care Finance Problems"

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Rachel Ryan reports that though France’s health care system is in many ways excellent it does come with its drawback in the form of taxes:

The current French tax system deducts from individuals’ pay immediately, so that there is no need for an April 15th, “tax day.” Because of this, people often do not process how much they are really paying out to the government… or perhaps they just accept it. “[The tax rates are] really not as bad as most people think it is, but US tax rates don’t begin to compare,” claims Amy, a 23-year-old American living and working in Paris, privy to all of the costs and benefits of la sécurité sociale.

Le Parti Socialiste (Socialist Party), who – as of last month – gained a sweeping political majority in France’s regional elections, is now advocating a further increase in taxes in order to offset rising healthcare costs. Le Parti Socialiste is proposing an increase in the bouclier fiscal (~ tax limit), which currently states that “direct taxes paid by a taxpayer may not exceed 50% of taxpayer’s revenues” in Article 1 of the Internal Revenue Code.

While there is no doubting that the overall level of care and minimal costs are aspirational, the French universal healthcare system is not without its drawbacks. Just as the U.S. is currently suffering from a lack of sufficient, available healthcare and money, so is France. Though the French system offers many short-term and long-term benefits, it is clearly not without its short-term and long-term costs.

If we’re talking health care, though, it’s important to look specifically at French health care spending. According to the OECD it’s expensive by world standards but thrifty compared to the United States:

Expenditure on health 1

It’s true that French public sector health expenditures are somewhat higher than ours as a share of GDP (though far smaller in per capita terms) but overall their system is doing an excellent job of controlling costs largely by paying less for services rather than providing fewer services. All countries are grappling with health care costs, but we’d be lucky to have France’s problems.

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