'We moved here for the healthcare': How foreigners view France's social model

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'We moved here for the healthcare': How foreigners view France's social model
An ambulance parked at the entrance of the Hospital Pierre-Paul Riquet of the University Hospital Centre (CHU) Purpan in Toulouse. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)

As France mulls cuts to some services to reduce the country’s deficit, readers reveal their experiences of health and social care here.


From free taxi rides for patients to state grants for holidays and concert tickets, via a robust system of benefits and healthcare, the French social model - funded by taxes - has long been renowned as a generous one.

But finance minister Bruno Le Maire has indicated that some services will need to be cut as the French deficit is high and steadily rising.

So we asked our readers - is France's social model really too generous? Or does it serve the people who live here well, in exchange for their hefty tax contributions?


We started off by asking people about their experiences of French healthcare, and whether they believe any changes should be made.


Overall, people were very positive about the French health system with most saying they had had good experiences and several people expressing gratitude for French medics who had saved their lives.

Pamela, from Bayeux, wrote that French benefits and healthcare services are, “Excellent”. “I pay a lot of tax and cotistations,” she wrote, “I feel like I get a fair return on this.”

Liz Barclay, who lives in Aveyron, wrote that an American friend’s six-day hospital stay and surgery following a heart attack cost around €11,000 in France compared to around $250,000 in USA. The care the friend received was ‘highly praised’ by an American cardiologist, she wrote.

She added that, “Regular doctor visits at €25 or even €30 seem very cheap.”

In fact, the general consensus among the responses is that care and services are mostly excellent – Alphonse Thompson went so far as to say it was: “Excellent, humane and a model for the Anglophone world”.

And Eric Stillwell, from Lot, said: “We moved here for the healthcare and believe it should be the model for more countries.”

D Packman, in Paris, wrote about the “Quality services, reasonable costs” of social and healthcare services in France.

READ ALSO How to get a carte vitale in France and why you need one

American Amy Freeman said: “I have used the system three or four times. I love the ease of making appointments and the bills were very low. I have never abused the system or asked for more than I needed. Probably because I am American and am terrified of getting a massive bill. I can’t seem to shake that mentality no matter where I live.”

Social benefits

France's social benefits are also potentially in line for cuts, especially unemployment benefits, so we asked our readers who had used those services what they thought.

A Var reader pointed out: “[U]nemployment benefits are not unreasonably generous and only available if sufficient working contributions prior to losing a job.”

Richard Romain, who lives in Aude, described the French model as, “socially inclusive and allows people to get into employment”.


He added: “My employer received a grant over five years for employing me as I am disabled. I also got 100 percent grant for adapting my place of work.”

And Andy Parsons, who has lived in Calvados since 2007, said the system was: “Easy and generous. As a full time carer for a three children, one of whom has disabilities, the allowances were generous and the tax breaks enormous.”

But not everyone agreed. Aditya Das, who moved to Lyon from India, was one of a few respondents who felt France’s social model was ‘too generous’. Das argued that “some undeserving people” benefit from a combination of state aid that keeps, “able bodied people from working”.

And A McKnight, from Argenteuil, wrote: “Every area of benefits goes too far – there need to be clear conditions and termination points set in place.”


Carol Schoen, who lives in Strasbourg, argued unemployment payments were too high: “There is too much abuse and not much incentive to get a job … [and] child allowances are too generous and don’t always benefit the children.”

And Ceinwen Reeves Izzard, from Dordogne, said that the model may be weighted against some, pointing out the, “[l]ack of generosity in sick pay for self-employed people who are too ill to work when others get spa treatments on prescriptions”.


And finally the million euro question - is there anything that is too generous and should be cut?

While some argued that unemployment benefits are too generous and don't incentivize work, others looked for savings amid healthcare. 


Reimbursed taxi costs for certain appointments, prescriptions for spa treatments and over-medication were causes for concern.

READ ALSO How to get free transport to medical appointments in France

Most people, however, advocated limiting or means-testing certain services, rather than axing them altogether.

“France could certainly eliminate free taxi rides to appointments for people who can drive themselves or can easily find a ride,” wrote Barclay, an view echoed by Pamela, who added: “It’s more the abuse that bothers me than the existence of the service. I see a lot of Britons living here taking the mickey with it.”

Several readers - especially those living in rural areas - told us they had used the taxi service to travel to vital medical appointments including cancer treatments. 

Several people also flagged up waste when it comes to medication, or just general over-prescribing (and it's true that the French are among the most highly medicated nations in the world).

Robert Hodge, living in the Vendée, said: "The amount of medication issued by pharmacies needs to be limited to that which is actually prescribed. Two pills a day for six days should be 12 pills and not 20 just because they come in boxes of 10."


Ceinwen Reeves Izzard added: "They are overly keen to prescribe MRIs, I have had multiple. They oversubscribe medication. I have lots of morphine locked in a safe because the pharmacy wouldn't take it back."

Matthew Davison agreed, adding: "The big one is medication. My doctor might prescribe 3 pills a day for 5 days, but the pharmacy will give me the double because that's the amount in one box. This creates so much waste. I have a cardboard box filled with leftover medicine I didn't need."


Comments (1)

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Deborah G 2024/04/11 00:48
Like any system there is room for abuse. Overly generous unemployment may (having witnessed) encourage able bodied people to not work. But no longer having sick pay for first couple of days due to abuse of system is silly. causes people to go in sick. so spreading germs. Tricky to find a balance but overall a much better system than in the US.

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