Healthcare and Pharmacies in France

As the healthcare debate wages on in the US (though I am frightened to hear about tweets  by people opposed to Obamacare saying they are moving to Canada for their healthcare), I am learning to navigate the healthcare system in France.

In a brief summary, all French citizens or spouses of citizens are eligible for Securite Sociale which provides basic health services by providers who are “medecin conventiones” (in the system) and pays 70% of their fee.   To go to a ”medecin conventione” will usually cost you 24€.  Yes, that is right, only 24€ and you are responsible for the remaining 30%=8€.  But if you have what is called a mutuelle, (these are all different and you have to pay a monthly fee for this, usually provided by your employer as “extra insurance”) it will cover the rest up to a cap.  In comparison, Maxime saw his general practitioner before we left Seattle and he had not met his deductible yet so the 25 minute appointment cost him $160.00.

But the downside I have found is that there is not much bedside manner in the healthcare profession.  When ladies are going for those “lady” appointments, no gown, sheet or even a small washcloth is given for your modesty. The doctors stay right in the room and you drop your drawers and hop on the table.  On the flip side, when I needed an appointment with an English speaking doctor for my sore throat, the doctor answered her phone at 7:00pm and gave me an appointment the following day.  When I arrived, she opened the door and I walked into her office/exam room.  No receptionist, no nurse.  The following day, when my cough became worse, I called her office and she once again answered and told me what to get at the pharmacy (more on the pharmacy visit below).

When I arrived in Paris, I was wowed by all the hair, skin and body products at the pharmacy (and still am).  Then, when I actually needed something medical, I walked to the counter, apologized for not speaking French and pointed to my throat and nose and made some “sick” noises of coughing and stuffed up-ness.  The pharmacist took two mysterious boxes from the back and I was on my way (also, these only cost about 4€ each).

On a side note, I do like that you have to ask the pharmacist for the over-the-counter product you want so you have to be somewhat accountable for the medicine you are taking, versus just filling up your basket at Walgreens with various syrups and pills.

Yesterday, with my cough becoming worse, my doctor told me to get “Exomuc 200mg”.  That was it.  I journeyed to my pharmacist, luckily only a short 1/2 block away, and put the piece of paper in front of her.  She once again, went to the back and presented me with a small box.  I was expecting a liquid similar to Robitussen, but no, to my surprise when I opened it, there were all these little packets.

And I mean little, French sized, not like Thereflu.  I was miffed because who prescribes a small packet of water soluble powder for a cough?  When I pulled one out of the box and I gave the pharmacist a confused look and said “avec de l’eau?”, she simply said “oui.”  But when I got home, realized I forgot to ask if I mix it with hot or cold water.  I navigated the instructions and found “eau” with no indication of “chaud – hot” or “froid – cold” so I mixed it with tap water.  To my surprise, over the last 24 hours, my cough has subsided.

I feel fortunate to have health insurance and that when needed for an emergency, have a doctor come to my home instead of traveling to an emergency room. But for day to day medical needs, I am at the mercy of the pharmacist to give me what they think will cure the ailment I am miming to them.

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2 Responses to Healthcare and Pharmacies in France

  1. Trish Johnson says:

    Glad your cough is better.

  2. I have got Exomuc for my cough but 5 days later and still waiting for it to go?, your so right about the French Pharmacies though they are helpful and reasonably priced.

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