The spectacle of tout France on strike because the government is asking its citizens to work until age 62 before receiving any pension benefits (currently the age is 60) made me think of our own recent mass protests. When health care reform was on the docket in Congress huge public rallies – the birth of the Tea Party movement – were organized across America to send a message to Washington: No thanks, we don’t want guaranteed health coverage; we prefer the freedom to go without!
The French believe it is their right to be taken care of by their government, damn the expense. Meanwhile Americans worry about our government’s deficit, and seem to prefer the “freedom” to decide whether they will have health coverage, even when that choice is often constrained by cost or eligibility requirements. Given their national showdown over retirement age, imagine the French reaction to a proposal to give them the American Health Care System.
In place of free universal health care President Sarkozy could offer his people – well, nothing. The American system is really not so much a system as a set of possibilities. It is possible, if you are lucky, that your employer (if you are lucky enough to have a job), will provide health insurance. In this case it is likely you will have to pay a substantial part of the premium, as well as an annual deductible, co-payments, etc. And that is the best possibility. On second thought, were Sarkozy to propose Le Sisteme Americain, there would probably be little protest. After all, he would quickly be deemed insane, removed from office, and given a lifetime of free psychiatric care.