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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les Français mettent leur santé à la diète

by Adama Sissoko

French Skimping on Health Care

Translated Saturday 17 July 2010, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Bill Scoble

More and more French people are limiting their medical care budget, according to a study by the Research Center for the Study and Observation of Living Conditions.

Worrying figures were published on July 14 by the Research Center for the Study and Observation of Living Conditions (CREDOC). According to the latest edition of the study entitled “Consumption and way of life,” 13% of the French say that they limit their medical care budget, compared with 3% in 1980. The trend is even stronger among the poorest households. According to the CREDOC, poor households limit their health care expenses three times as often as wealthy households.

The middle classes are also affected.

“I go to the doctor only in an extreme emergency,” said Marie, 25, an apprentice in management assistantship and mother of one child. When she resumed her course of studies for an advanced vocational diploma, at a salary of 800 euros a month, the health care budget quickly became limited. “With just that salary, I can afford care only for my daughter ... And even then, I don’t take her to the pediatrician any more. A visit costs 50 euros. I take her to the general practitioner.”

Nevertheless, there are public health care centers where visits to specialists are not so expensive, but the time spent in the waiting room is often very long. Cécile, 22, a humanities student, admits that she goes there. “I quit work to concentrate on preparing the CAPES competitive exam to qualify for a teaching job. As a result, I think twice before going to see the doctor or the gynecologist. The cost of a visit can be as high as 60 euros ... I went to a private health care center where visits were less expensive, but that bothered me, because I would prefer that access to health care remain in the public sector.”

Has access to health care become a luxury? The case of Aissata, 30, a distribution manager, married with two children, shows that the middle classes are also affected. Despite an income (4500 euros a month) that is well over the average, the couple now uses a health care center linked to their mutual insurance company. “That way, I don’t pay any costs in advance. On the other hand, I have to wait an hour and a half to see the dentist.”

The author of the CREDOC study, Régis Bigot, underlines the fact that “while the 13% figure may seem low, it represents, all the same, eight million people.” And he adds that these figures are explained by “the reforms of the health care system of the past 30 years.”

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