Saturday, December 15, 2007

The French Gravy Train

It is possible to sympathise with those British expatriates in France who are now being asked to fund their own health care – as opposed to having it paid for by the French taxpayer. But the fact is that the only ones affected are those who have chosen to take early retirement and whom thus, one would have thought, could well have afforded to take out some form of health insurance themselves.
It is a fact that many expatriate Brits are here, not for the beer, but for the excellent health service and the French have never ruled against retirees even though they contribute practically nothing to the economy. The problem would seem to lie more on the northern side of La Manche than with the French.
Few French retire to Britain and if they do, I suspect would be quick to hop on the Eurostar back home if they needed serious medical attention, so arguments of reciprocity are not especially valid. There are a good many young French people working in Britain and paying their taxes, as opposed to the far larger number of Brits retired in France who spend their time looking for Heinz Beans and PG Tips in the shops and who make full use of the free health benefits.
If the National Health Service in Britain were in better shape I doubt that the question would even have arisen. Expats would have been glad to return to their own country for medical treatment.
But having lived with a vastly superior system for a while, it is easy to see why many would be upset.
French doctors work long hours, make house calls and, in the case of our own local GP, are rarely home before late evening. Except for the days when he is on call 24 hours.
And his salary? If he makes 50,000 euros he's had a good year, he tells me. It's hardly surprising that we don't have many English doctors here.
But the sheer accessibility of good medical treatment is a huge attraction. Rarely is there a waiting list for treatments although there is almost always a modest charge made. A visit to the doctor is not free as in Britain, a feature that our Doctor says is frequently overlooked by his expat patients!
Although there seems to be a disproportionate fuss being made over the matter – the numbers involved are small – it's understandable if you happen to be one of that number.
But it's equally understandable that there is no reason for the French taxpayer to be lumbered with the health care of those of working age who have voluntarily elected to leave their own country for what they thought were greener pastures.


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