Comparing France and the US’ healthcare system: which is better?

France vs USA healthcare

France always had the reputation of having an excellent healthcare system, ranking at number 1 on the latest World Health Organization’s rankings. Granted, that ranking comes from the year 2000, but today, it still has a lot of advantages. For example, France has the least deaths avoidable with healthcare in the world, so they must be doing something right.
By contrast, the US system has the reputation of being costly and inefficient, but it’s worth asking: how do they compare?

Public vs private coverage

In the US, the only ones who have access to a completely federal system are the elderly, the poor, and veterans. Together, that means less than 35% of the population. Though, these programs differentiate hospital coverage from physician coverage, so many elderly still choose to buy additional insurance.

By contrast, in France, everyone is automatically insured. Social contributions are paid with taxes, and with that, the Government will automatically reimburse 70% of all medical fees (though certain operations are paid back in full). Granted, most French people also subscribe to a semi-private “Mutuelle” that will reimburse the rest of the fees. Though, the mutuelles cost less than 50 $ a month per person.

How much does it cost?

Because social contributions are mixed with taxes and include a lot more services than healthcare, comparing the two can be difficult.
However, we can compare spending on a national level:

  • The US spends over 8 000 $ per capita on healthcare
  • France spends less than 4 000 $ per capita on healthcare

Data also suggests that the average American spends much more on healthcare than in France.

How effective is it?

As mentioned earlier, France has the least deaths avoidable with healthcare in the world. Furthermore, there’ no waiting time, and even though life expectancy is similar to what you find in the UK or Germany, life expectancy at 65 is the second-highest in the world. As such, most early deaths are the result of tobacco or alcohol. Not to mention, every French person is properly insured.

In contrast, more than 30 million Americans aren’t insured, and the US ranks last among “comparable countries” on mortality rate, rate of deaths amenable to healthcare, disease burden, medical, and medication and lab errors. Even in categories where it isn’t last, there are virtually none of them where it beats France.


The only real advantage the US has over France in terms of healthcare is that you don’t have to pay for healthcare if you don’t want to. However, if you want healthcare, you’ll probably end up paying way more than you would in France, for services that are largely inferior.