Tag: French healthcare for expats

Moving to France Healthcare

Moving to France: Healthcare

One of the most asked questions for this American expat in France is about healthcare. “What do you do about healthcare when moving to France?”

The simple reply is “travelers insurance.” The answer you really want to know is “don’t worry about it.”

I couldn’t be more serious. If you’re going to be insured or sick, you couldn’t find a better place to do it than France. Yes, you can take it from one who knows. I’ve just completed a 10-week stint going through an emergency operation, hospitalization and rehab hospitalization in the South of France.

The post below was written when I was literally flat on my back in the hospital. Since then I’ve returned to my apartment in Uzés, back up the 55 steps, and I’m going to physical therapy 5 days a week. I’m walking there and back. It’s been a really long road; albeit, an amazing experience. It’s given me great respect for the French, their hospitals and the staffs. And I’ve learned a bit of French — out of sheer necessity. Very few people I encountered along the way spoke English.

I’ll be honest, the travelers insurance company hasn’t kicked in to repay me, but so far, the bills are minimal. My surgeon and the hospital continue to say there’s no charge for the emergency surgery or 10-day hospital stay afterwards. The rehab hospitals have yet to totally bill me, but I understand it’s like 220 euros a day for room, board and 2 hours of physical therapy a day. I’ll keep you posted.

Here’s the story …

The Barefoot Blogger is going to step out of her carefree expat role to talk about something that is critically important to me at this moment: Healthcare.

As I type with one finger of my left hand, I am lying in a bed in a rehabilitation hospital outside Nimes, France.

I’ve been hospitalized in the French healthcare system now since September 18, the date I fell crossing the street while co-leading a ladies’ tour with my good friend, author Patricia Sands.

A unique perspective on my French vs. USA healthcare from one who has experienced a similar orthopedic injury and treatment in both countries.

I wrote about the accident in a previous post. I knew I’d be writing an “inside story” about my experience with the French medical system as an American expat.

Telling the story now, prior to the upcoming election in the US, seems the perfect time.

French Healthcare: Hospital Admission

My accident occurred in Aigues-Mortes, a historic walled city in the south of France, on Tuesday afternoon, September 18.

After my fall I was taken by ambulance to the hospital of my choice, Centre Hospitalizer Universitaire Carémeau, in Nimes. A hospital in Montpelier was a nearby alternative, but Nîmes was closer to my home in Uzès. Both are university hospitals with excellent  reputations.

The ambulance ride to the hospital in Nimes was traumatic, just as you’d expect. The heat, the pain and my anxiety were all at play. Fortunately, the hospital was less than an hour away.

When we arrived at the hospital, I was asked a few questions, fortunately by someone who spoke English. Simple things like my full name, where I lived and did I have allergies. No one asked for my passport, for any type of formal identification, or for proof of medical insurance.

The admissions process, emergency room examination, X-rays and placement in a semi-private room took about 3 hours.

A longtime friend who was on the ladies’ tour was allowed to accompany me through each stage of the process. “To hold my hand.” The hospital staff quickly knew neither of us spoke French.

French Healthcare: Surgery

The hospital I was taken to in Nimes after the accident is a university hospital. They have a large, active emergency care unit. Since my situation was far from life-threatening, my surgery was not performed immediately. It was more like 36 hours later.

Meanwhile, I was in a semi-private room with a patient who was awaiting her second knee operation. Not because of my room nor roommate, but I was pretty miserable. No morphine or heavy pain killers were given to me prior to surgery. I was told morphine was not allowed because of its adverse affects on anesthetics administered during surgery.

I remember how relieved I was when the mask went on my face at the beginning of surgery. I knew when I woke up I would be in la la land.

French Healthcare: Post Surgery

I had no idea where I was when I awoke from surgery. No one spoke English. All I remember is that I was moved around a bit, probably from on level of surgery aftercare to another.

Fortunately I was cognizant that I was in France, that I was alive, and that I wanted to move to my room as quickly as possible so people would let me be. So I said “c’est bien” anytime I was asked a question. No telling what I was agreeing to.

For ten days I occupied a hospital bed in a large double room with a dear French woman who became my new best friend, Chantal. She spoke not a word of English. Nevertheless, we carried on a daily ritual something like this:

Bonjour, Deborah,” she said each morning. “Comment allez vous?” she’d ask.

Bonjour, Chantal,” I’d respond. “Ça va bien, “ I’d answer. Then “ Comment allez vous?”

The simple question\answer exercise would continue through the day — every day — ending with our shared “Bonne nuit.”

Moving to France Healthcare

My hospital room with Chantal

My daily care during the ten days in the hospital (“hopital” in French) was extraordinarily good. Except for the bad food and occasional curt response from a nurse or “ colleague,” presumedly because my French was unintelligible, I was treated well. There was a time or two when I was left too long on a bedpan, but the small things could be overlooked when I considered my every physical need was being tended 24/7.

Moving to France Healthcare

A fabulous nurse and aide at Carémeau Hospital

French Healthcare: Rehab

Sometime before the end of my ten days in the hospital in Nimes, I learned I was being transferred for physical rehabilitation to a hospital in a small town outside Nimes. I was not going to the rehab hospital in Uzès as I’d expected. It was fully occupied. For the first time since the ordeal started, I cried. In fact, I boo-hooed.

The idea that I was going to some unknown village where no one would speak English was terrifying. Thoughts of Jane Eyre came to my mind. I envisioned being cast away behind stone walls where I would be starved and mistreated. What had I done to deserve such a fate?

When I came to my senses, I realized I could find out about the strange new place by simply searching the Internet. There I discovered I was headed for a brand new hospital, built in 2016, with a sterling reputation for orthopedic rehabilitation. Case closed. I was content with my fate.

Moving to France Healthcare

(Upper left) Nurse and English-speaking Doctor (Upper right) Rehab hospital outside Nimes (Lower left) My physical therapist, Clement, also English/speaking (Lower right) Me in motion

French Healthcare: Cost

It’s day 40 since I have been hospitalized in France due to a hip and shoulder fracture. Except for a bill for the ambulance that transferred me from the Nimes hospital to the rehab hospital outside Nimes, and a bill for compression stockings, I have not been asked to pay for anything.

The costs for the items above were 76 euros ($86.83) and 56 euros ($63.98) respectively. I paid those bills by check. I will be reimbursed by the travel insurance company when I file a claim.

For time spent in the rehab hospital, I will receive a bill when I leave. A friend who inquired about payment for the rehab hospital was told it will cost 197 euros per day ($224). Included in the cost is physical therapy: 1 1/2 hours each day, Monday through Friday.

News flash: I have heard I won’t be billed for my time at the hospital in Nimes. Not for the surgery nor the 10 days as an inpatient.

There is no charge for emergency services in France.

Let that sink in.

Tomorrow I am moving to the rehab hospital in Uzès. My doctor here pulled a few strings to have me transferred. Perhaps she did it because she thought it would be good for me to be closer to home and to my friends. Or, she might have wanted to get rid of me. Draw your own conclusion. Either way, I’m “outta here.”

The plan is for me to stay in Uzès until November 6 when I’ll be taken by ambulance to the hospital in Nimes. If all checks out and my bones are healed, I’ll spend the next 3 to 4 weeks in the Uzès rehab hospital and begin weight-bearing exercises to regain my mobility.

When the doctor releases me, I’ll be able to return to independent living and out-patient rehab.

Next: US Healthcare “A comparison”

Stay tuned for Part 2 …..

For More on French Healthcare for Expats Contact Renestance

Why You Should Care About Healthcare This Election: Part 2

I fell while crossing the street in Aigues-Mortes, France on September 18. I broke my hip and shoulder on the right side. Since then, I’ve sampled how healthcare is delivered, French-style. (Why You Should Care About Healthcare This Election: Part 1)

As crazy as it might seem, several years ago in the US I experienced an almost identical injury to the one in France. Except it was on my left side. This post is about my US healthcare experience.

The accident eight years ago happened in my home in South Carolina. I had just separated from my husband of 40 years, so I was alone. As I had been warned not to do many times during my marriage, I was standing on top of the kitchen counter. I fell off.

“Why was I standing on the kitchen counter? ” you ask. My most popular answer is “pole dancing.” Believe as you will.

When I fell from the countertop onto the tile floor in the kitchen, I landed on my left side. Immediately I knew I was in trouble. My left leg was crooked at a 45 degree angle. My left arm was killing me. I was nauseous.

There was no one around except my labradoodle, Bentley, so I had to find my cellphone to call for help.

But where was the phone?

In my foggy state, I remembered I had last used the cellphone in the living room. I dragged myself on the floor to find it. Fortunately it was where I thought I’d left it. I called my sister-in-law who was in the same town.

The next thing I remember, a strange man was kneeling over me calling my name. I had passed out. The man was an EMT. With the aide of another EMT, he lifted me onto what felt like a board. My leg was still bent. I was in excruciating pain.

When we arrived at the hospital emergency room, my brother, sister-in-law and my ex-husband were there. They took care of the details of admitting me to the emergency room while I was wheeled into a “holding area.”

As I remember, it was close to 9pm when I entered the emergency room of the hospital. After X-rays and the sad discovery that I had broken both my hip and my arm, I was put into my private room.. It was after 4am. Apparently the hospital had a problem locating the doctor. Without his approval, they could not admit me.

Fortunately, I was loaded with meds, so I was in and out of consciousness. I remember vividly, however, when they put me in the hospital bed and forced my leg down straight with a pulley and weights. That hurt big time.

US Healthcare: Surgery and Post Op

My hip was operated on the second day I was in the hospital. Three pins were inserted through a very small incision to hold the break in the hip. No surgery was needed for the broken bone in my arm. Just a bandage.

Five days after I was admitted, I was discharged from the hospital.

US Healthcare: Rehab

Anytime I’ve been hospitalized for surgery in the US, I’ve been asked “is there anyone at home who can take care of you?” Don’t ask me why no one mentions a stop at a rehabilitation hospital.

In fact, I know of only one person who has gone from a hospital to an inpatient rehab facility. It was my daughter-in-law after spinal surgery. It’s been my experience that you find somebody to take care of you after you leave the hospital.

Miss Rosie’s Rehab

That “somebody” for me was Rosemary. We’re like sisters. We were in journalism school together at UNC-Chapel Hill; we were in each others’ wedding; and we lived together in Greenville, SC for our first jobs out of university. At the time of my accident Rosemary was single. She lived on a farm with horses, donkeys, 3 dogs and 20+ cats.

My us healthcare

Four-legged friends at Miss Rosey’s: Ester and her son, Firecracker

After my discharge from the hospital, no one talked about hiring an ambulance to take me home. Rosemary hauled me there in the backseat of her car. I’m not sure how we managed to fit my 5’9″ broken body in the car, but we did it. Family members met us at my condo and put me into my bed. I could bear no weight on my left leg nor use my arm. I was fragile and I was in a great deal of pain. Mind you, I had broken the femoral arm of my hip into two pieces only five days earlier.

Patient Care

Rosemary was with me through one of the most horrifically painful times in my life. We stayed most of the time at her farm in North Carolina. Neither of us knew anything about tending a patient after surgery.

My US Healthcare

View at Miss Rosey’s Rehab

Through trial and error we discovered “tricks” to help us deal with the adversities of my lame condition and pain. For example, “how to move a lame patient in the bed.”

I’d experienced being pulled on a sheet from the stretcher to the x-Ray table at the hospital. At the time I remember asking the two female X-ray technicians, “how do you two manage to move a large man?

The same way,” they said.

So Rosemary kept a doubled sheet under me at all times on the bed. When I needed to get out of bed, she’d pull the two corners of the doubled sheet towards the side of the bed. Laying flat, my body would slide with the movement of the sheet to the edge of the mattress. Then, ever so slowly and gently, I’d sit up.

We used this routine day and night. Especially when I needed the toilet. It never dawned on us to use a bedpan.

For over six weeks I moved from place to place at Miss Rosie’s with a walker. On one foot, with a broken arm. I was pretty much a prisoner in her guest room and kitchen. The floor plan of the house was multi-level.

One day we had the bright idea to use a kitchen stool to help me get to her deck outside. I sat on the stool in the kitchen. Then I swiveled my body around to face the kitchen door and the deck that was one step down. Rosemary took my walker onto the deck, and Voila! I stepped off the stool on my one good leg, grabbed the walker and I was outside in the fresh air.

US Healthcare: Physical Therapy

When I felt ok to be on my own, I left “Miss Rosey’s Rehab” and returned to South Carolina. I had to go back to work. Fortunately I telecommuted from home with IBM, so there was no “going to the office.”

I began a twice weekly regimen of physical therapy. My health insurance with IBM allowed for 8 weeks. After 6 weeks I had to stop. The pins in my hip were causing a problem. I waited until they were removed a month later to resume my treatment. Fortunately, IBM insurance paid for another 6 weeks of physical therapy.

The good news is that the physical therapy experience was excellent. I regained mobility and strength nearly one hundred percent.

US Healthcare: Costs

I wish I could recall the hospital and surgery cost but it was eight years ago. I don’t remember how much I was paying for health insurance, either. I do know, however, that I wasn’t on Medicare; I was covered by an employee policy provided by IBM; and I paid monthly for a supplemental insurance policy. Bottom line, I was well-covered.

That means nothing now. With the cost of healthcare in the US today, whatever it cost in 2010 wouldn’t be relevant today.

Which is why I’m writing this post.

I’m writing this post because I think it’s important to let others know about healthcare outside of the US. As difficult as it is to believe, the US no longer has the best healthcare. (See below.)

Think of your own experience in the US with hip surgery, back surgery, or any other condition where you required extended care. Compare it to what you read about my healthcare in France.

FACT

Over 28 Million Americans have no healthcare insurance.

Just the other day, I called a dear friend in the US who had expressed concern that I was staying in France after my accident. The first thing she told me when I called was that her son had been in an automobile accident. He was in the hospital with a crushed ankle, a broken leg and a broken wrist. After telling me about the car crash, we celebrated the fact that he had survived.

Then she revealed a horrible truth. Her son had no medical insurance. His policy had lapsed. A sad mistake too many of us make when have busy lives.

As a result, my friend’s son was leaving the hospital after five days and two surgeries. He was going home to avoid the continuing hospital costs. He was barely conscious because of the massive doses of medication he needed for pain. He had a metal rod visibly running through his foot.

A third surgery is scheduled in two weeks. He’ll go to the hospital, then back home after surgery. There’s not a trained medical person to stay with him during those days he’ll require intensive care and pain management. The entire family will need to chip in with time off work as they can.

US Healthcare: 3 Reasons We Deserve Better

#1 Worst Healthcare in the Developed World

The state of healthcare in the US is alarming. Once a leader, US Healthcare is Ranked the Worst in the Developed World.My us healthcare

#2 Cost is Prohibitive

The cost of healthcare is prohibitive for many, especially those without insurance or with poor coverage,

My us healthcare

#3 Healthcare Costs are Bankrupting America

Healthcare is the #1 cause of bankruptcy in the US today.

My us healthcareI read a statement recently that I can’t get out of my head. A young girl who was returning home to France after two years in the US as an au pair was asked:

“Would you like to stay in the US?”

To the surprise of the interviewer, she replied “No,” and continued, “the US doesn’t take care of its people.”

My us health care

Vote!

French Healthcare for Expats?

Renestance, an American-staffed relocation company in Montpelier, has produced an excellent series of ebooks on Healthcare in France. Check out their website for all types of guidance for expats.

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