10 Health Care Systems Around the World


In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked France first in its survey of health care systems. French citizens have universal health coverage that's provided by the government. Funds come from required contributions from citizens based on income. In return, the country reimburses about 70 percent of most medical bills [source: Shapiro]. The French people are allowed to see any health provider they choose, and about 42 percent can get a same-day appointment [source: Cohn].

To cover the balance, most citizens have supplemental insurance with either a public or a private plan. This supplemental plan might be provided by an employer, as most U.S. health insurance is. Because those that can afford a private plan often take it, supplemental insurance is something of a tiered system divided by class [source: Harrell].

One criticism of France's system is the high rate of government spending; the program is frequently over budget. The French government spends about $3,300 per person on health care (the U.S. spends twice that amount) [source: Shapiro]. However, as the WHO ranking demonstrates, the French receive a tremendous amount of care for that money. In one study of 19 industrialized nations, France had the lowest rate of deaths that could have been prevented with adequate basic health care (the United States had the highest) [source: Harrell]. France is also renowned for treating the very sick; if you have a serious condition like cancer, all your costs are covered by the government, even expensive and experimental drugs or surgeries. But the French also understand that good care starts early. Working moms receive lengthy paid maternity leaves, and new moms with low incomes are provided financial incentives to attend prenatal and early childhood appointments.