One System for All; Universal Access to Health Care in Practice

Article excerpt

Julie Castro is a young doctor from France, a country that offers quality health care for all. All legal residents have access to coverage, and immigrants gain the right to access after three months (though spiraling xenophobia has created restrictions in practice). Those served by the medical system--including the very poor and the gravely or chronically ill--are likely to receive better care in France than anywhere in the world. Moreover, the sicker you are, the less you pay. Dire illnesses like tuberculosis or cancer, chronic conditions like diabetes, and major operations like open-heart surgery are covered by the state at 100 percent. France's commitment is premised on the philosophy that the government has an obligation to the welfare of its people.

The following profile is part of a series titled "Women-Birthing justice, birthing hope, "featuring empowered women who offer alternative visions as they birth a new and more just world order. The full series of 12 profiles is on NCRonline.org.

Julie Castro

Paris

My interest in health emerged as a way to take action in the fight for social justice. During my medical studies I did internships in Africa and India, and worked in a refugee camp located along the Thai-Burmese border. At the same time I became more aware of the anti-globalization movement, and it appeared to me that it was addressing the structural causes of ill health: . inequality at both the global and local level. Today, while I'm working on the fight against AIDS in Mali, I'm also one of those defending the idea that access to public health in France is a right.

Even with its problems, the French health system is a good one. It's a real distributive system. Universal access to health care is one basic value. A second benefit our system offers is equity in quality of care. In France, this means that the system should not make any distinction in terms of class, race or gender. It could be summarized as "one system for all." Poor people don't have to pay when they go see a doctor. Today, if you arrive in a bad state in a public hospital in France, you will be cured--wherever you come from, whatever your language, documented or undocumented, all in the same way as a government minister would.

And another practical advantage today, I think, is the quality of care. Even if the infrastructure is over-whelmed and lacks people, the quality of public health care is still good. …