The patient patient

When we were investigating making a permanent move to France we read a lot about the experiences of others and two themes emerged. Everyone seemed to agree that the French love their paperwork. We’d had an inkling of that when we saw that to apply for our initial 1-year visa we would need to supply at least a dozen different documents (that list is here) to prove that we would be able to financially support ourselves during the validity of the visa. That process, with the paperwork, was repeated here as well each time we went in to renew our visa/residence card. It still makes me laugh to remember apologizing to our bank counselor for not speaking very good French when we opened our bank account. She looked at the pile of documents we had brought in for that application process and said with a grin while pointing to the stack, “Au contraire, you speak very good French!” We had our own experience recently at the hospital regarding that second theme: patience.

Bill needed a routine endoscopy that our family doctor had recommended. Up to this point we had seen individual medical practitioners such as the dentist, dermatologist, and ophthalmologist but our only hospital experience had been for a Covid booster shot and for a very quick non-emergency stop in the emergency room. You can find details on all of these visits by clicking on the “Medical” tag in the right-hand column on this page. Since we always like to be prepared for new experiences, especially in another language, this blog post might help others who are wondering if the procedures here differ from those in the US. While I don’t believe that it is all that different, the cost probably was and I’ll put the charges below. 

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Here in Carcassonne we can typically get a same-day appointment with our family doctor (known as a médecin traitant) while making an appointment with a doctor for getting our teeth cleaned might have a 2-week delay, our skin looked at with a wait of 3 months, or 9 months for an eye exam. These times are not necessarily the same all around the country and of course, no matter where you live, emergencies are dealt with immediately. It’s important to see the médecin traitant because without her/his referral to a specialist as needed (except for gynecologists, dentists, opthamologists, and psychiatrists) your reimbursement from the national health system of those professional fees drops to 30% from the normal 70%.

So, just how patient was our patient Bill? Here’s the timeline:

  • December 14 Family doctor (médecin traitant) appointment
  • March 9 Gastroenterologist consultation
  • June 1 Anesthesiologist consultation + hospital pre-admission
  • June 10 Endoscopy performed: in at 8 AM and out at 11 AM

Although Carcassonne has a state-owned hospital that’s a city bus ride away, we can walk to a private hospital that is also covered by the national health system with some doctors charging a modest supplement. For the appointments prior to hospital admission we paid up-front and were then reimbursed while the charges on the day of the procedure were directly covered by the national health system. Here’s a table of the costs and reimbursements for this endoscopy:

ItemAmt. charged €Amt. reimbursed €Out-of-pocket €
Family doctor consultation25.0016.508.50
Gastro doctor consultation50.0034.0016.00
Anesthesiologist consultation30.00—–30.00
Hospital out-patient admission fee30.0020.0010.00
Gastro doctor procedure fee96.0096.00—–
Anesthesiologist procedure fee50.8850.88—–
Laboratory fee36.4036.40—–
Hospital out-patient day use fee354.46354.46—–
Searching for a doctor or hospital

For any overnight hospital stays, to avoid additional out-of-pocket charges we have top-up insurance, called a mutuelle, with a monthly cost of 22€ per person. To get an idea ahead of time of what the charges in the table above were likely to be, we went to the French national health insurance website, l’Assurance Maladie and did a search for the specific doctors and hospital on the tab marked Annuaire Santé. You can also do a city search, without knowing personnel or facility names, select a hospital and/or doctors from within that city, and then consult their range of fees.

For comparison purposes only, the average cost of an endoscopy in the United States is $2,750 according to New Choice Health.

Photo notes: The featured photo across the top is La Roche-Bernard in Brittany. With a view like that, I could develop some patience. In the first paragraph that’s paper-making papyrus in Figeac. The others are from the Ameli website.

5 thoughts on “The patient patient

  1. Well, your mutuelle is far less expensive than ours! We have, I think, similar cover (hospitalization, some bloodwork) but we’re paying three times that amount. In any case, it’s good to be reminded of the comparison of costs for procedures – it is a relief living in a country where people’s health is valued. I hope Bill continues to be healthy and no other procedures are indicated for either of you for quite some time! 🙂

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