Alice through the French Health Care System

I’ve been enrolled in the healthcare system in France since early 2015. In typical fashion (for me), I’ve been avoiding needing it. However, I’ve recently had some health concerns that require a doctor.

Healthcare in thiah_has country is so different from healthcare in the US…and not just for the obvious reasons. But before I start blogging about my healthcare excursions in France, let me start by saying that I have never enjoyed going to the doctor…ever. I have a history of mistrust with them, for some very good reasons. There is nothing more irritating than a know-it-all doctor who gives me no credit for knowing my own body, let alone credit for being able to understand the complexity of medicine, a doctor motivated by big pharma to prescribe garbage that doesn’t even address the core issues of illness, a doctor who slaps a diagnosis down with alarming inaccuracy and rolls his eyes at the possible validity of alternative means of well-being.

I realize not all doctors are like this (thank God), but far too many of them are. I avoid them like the plague…which I guess means I’d rather HAVE plague that see a doctor!

In the United States, I didn’t have any healthcare insurance for many years. I only worked part-time at a college and part-time for myself, so I was out of luck. Being healthy, it wasn’t much of an issue. I neither smoked nor drunk alcohol, I exercised daily, and I ate with my health in mind. Recently, I’ve seen a meme going around called MEDS: meditation, exercise, diet, and sleep. Those remain my first line of defense and have served me well.

I was in my transition to France at the time Obamacare became mandatory, so I managed to escape it for the most part. I won’t get into what I think of the Affordable Healthcare Act, so ineptly named. This is about France, after all.

But I do have one more US-related perception to address. I know people (I’m related to some of them) who believe that socialist healthcare as found in other countries is a horror of ineptitude and out-of-date practice with long wait-times and little to no freedom of choice. Granted, this perception is one mostly instilled by propaganda and the corporations in the US that don’t want to lose their moneytrain, but I was beginning to wonder after watching my husband deal with some medical concerns here. The jury has remained out in that regard.

But now, I have my own first-hand experience to share, and so I will.

Yesterday, I saw a general practitioner. My husband had to “encourage” me into keeping my appointment, and I knew I should just get it over with, but I really wanted to cancel. The days leading up to it, I had to keep my anxiety in check. Turned out, I had nothing to worry about. The doctor was a lovely woman with a direct but warm manner. I trusted her immediately. She fortunately spoke enough English for us to be able to communicate sufficiently, too.

I’ll be sharing more about my first appointment (okay, truthfully, it isn’t my first appointment…I’m trying to forget the first appointment…long story!) and subsequent experiences as a patient in France. Stay tuned…

 

Obamacare & International Health

I was, as a single person, not all that enthused about Obamacare until I realized that I qualified for free care. Not having had any health insurance for the last 10+ years of my life due to cost, learning that gave it a bit more luster. Now that I’m married, though, I no longer qualify for subsidies and the cost of insurance has gone up 4000%. Bummer. And of course, if I don’t purchase, penalties ensue. Fortunately, Stuart and I have decided to settle where he is now, in France. This will exempt us from having to enroll in Obamacare. Good thing, too, because if we both had to, we’d be talking around $8000 a year. Ridiculous! That money is better spent, in my opinion, on maintaining our good health through whole, healthy foods and alternative care, like bodywork and acupuncture, for well-being. That’s my two cents, but of course, each must come to his or her own conclusions.

Thing is, I’m not in France yet, and we’re not sure when things will be in place for that to happen. So, it seems I will be required to purchase health insurance or face the penalty consequences. Ironically, the penalty is based on AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) of household income. I don’t know anything about anything about any of this, but it sounds to me like the IRS is expecting me to report my nonresident alien spouse’s income to determine my penalty. Excuse me? He has absolutely no obligation to the US government to report his foreign income. He isn’t American! How can they justify penalizing me based on his income??? It’s messed up!

Aside from the tangle of US taxes and Obamacare, one of the things we are currently trying to figure out is whether Stuart can enroll me as his spouse on his insurance in France. We’re waiting for quotes from the insurer. If I need to hold a Cart de Sejour before being allowed to enroll, in other words, be permanently in France, then I will need some kind of international medical insurance in the interim. Fortunately, international insurance plans don’t cost $4000 a year like Obamacare!

I’ve been looking at Cigna Global and HTH among others. Anyone out there have experience with international health plans, good or bad?

Where to Land Continued: USA

Last post, I discussed the various pluses and minuses of relocating to the UK as the non-EU spouse of a UK citizen who is currently living in France. Today, I’m clicking my heels and asking, “Is there really no place like home?”

I’ve lived in the US my whole life. Though I’ve been lucky enough to do some traveling, I’ve never been gone for long. In fact, the longest trip outside the US was actually to the UK with my sister in the 80’s. We stayed 3 months, and I’d never been so happy to see the backside of a country upon my return. But I’m a different person now…happier, more mature, more cultured…I hope.

I love America and the ideals for which it stands…or at least stood. Let’s face it. It isn’t what it once was. It has entered a rather ugly adolescence of violent crime, political bickering, biased media, and corporate greed. It is tainted by an absolutely dreadful educational, health, and corrupted financial system with imbalances and senses of entitlement bordering on the insane. Will it continue the plunge into the shadowy depths  of overweight, undereducated sheeple led by a government of bullies, manipulators, and liars before it re-emerges as an adult nation with a better sense of responsibility and the intentions of our forefathers…which I’m sure it will…one day?

That said, it’s home to me and therefore “the devil I know”. Here I have a house, a business, friends, and family. I live in a great city, one of the best, which has isolated me from a lot of the worst parts of US living. My life has been good.

The question is, if we were to go through the 6-9 month process (the longest of all three possibilities) of applying for a CR1 visa for Stuart, would it be worth it?

Yes: Stuart could eventually become a US citizen (and despite everything I’ve written so far, this is still a pretty awesome country). That would make things a lot easier legally and financially should something happen to either of us. Eventually, Stuart and I would both be able to come and go as we please, too.

No: I alone cannot meet the financial requirement to bring him here. It would involve getting a sponsor, which we do have, but I’m not crazy about the idea of burdening a loved one.

Yes: Because of current exchange rates and the fact that Stuart’s income is the Pound, our standard of living would be significantly higher here…and wow, wouldn’t I like to experience that for once!

No: Enter US taxes…on worldwide income. As it is, because we married this year, I will no longer be getting what would have been an over $500 tax return unless we choose to file jointly…and we can only elect to do that once in a lifetime. But frankly, I can’t see dragging Stuart into the US tax system prematurely.

Yes: I’d be near friends and family. Business relationships and musical collaborations would go on as before.

No: Obamacare. As a single, poor person, I was really excited about Obamacare. I would have had health insurance for the first time in 12 years for a whopping premium of FREE. But now that I’m married, that premium has jumped to over $4000…and that’s just for me. And if we don’t buy, we face increasing penalties. Compared to the healthcare systems of our other options, the US doesn’t stand out.

Yes: From coast to coast, America can’t be beat for landscape, cool cities, an abundant lifestyle, and all the things that make America the amazing melting pot it is. And…we both understand the language. And…I already have a driver’s license.

There’s always culture shock to consider too. But of course, that will happen for one of us no matter where we go.

So…now that I’ve summarized the pros and cons of life in our three countries of choice, what do you think? Where would you go? France, the UK, or the US?