With nearly 45 million people in a population of nearly 300 million uninsured for health care services and many millions more with inadequate health insurance coverage, some researchers believe it may be time for the United States to look abroad for new ideas on how to provide universal health insurance coverage. The French have a national health insurance (NHI) system that assures access to a wide range of health services with health care professionals in private practice as well as in public and private hospitals.

France’s NHI system and its current reforms will be the focus of a colloquium sponsored by New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the École Libre des Hautes Études (ELDHE). The event will be held on Monday, Nov. 29, 2004, from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at NYU Wagner’s new home on the second floor of the Puck Building, 295 Lafayette St (at the corner of Houston St.).

The colloquium coincides with a publication by NYU Wagner professor Victor G. Rodwin and professor Claude Le Pen, (University of Paris, Dauphine), in the Nov. 25 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, which argues that the current health care reform in France represents a step in the direction of “state-led managed care.” The French health care system has succeeded in maintaining access to health services under an NHI system which Rodwin said “resembles, in some respects, what may be called a ‘Medicare for all’ reform in the United States.”

“In contrast to Medicare,” he added, “French NHI provides excellent coverage for prescription drugs. What is more, there are no deductibles and only modest co-payments from which patients are exempt if they suffer from high cost chronic illnesses.”

Professor René Jahiel (University of Connecticut and ELDHE) says the French health care system is “well-known for its effective national program for maternal and child health and for its good access to health services.” Since the French have better health outcomes - infant mortality rates, life expectancy at birth, as well as life expectancy at 65 years - than their American counterparts, and given that their system provides universal access to primary health care services as well as to state-of-the art high-tech medical care, the colloquium will provide an important forum for discussing whether there may be important lessons for the United States to learn.

The colloquium will include high-level participants involved in the development and evaluation of the French reform, including Jean de Kervasdoué, professor at the Centre National des Arts et Métiers and the former director of hospitals for the French Ministry of Health; Pierre-Jean Lancry, of the National Council for the Reform of French National Health Insurance; Claude Le Pen, professor of health economics; and Michel Grignon, Institut de Recherches et de Développement d’Économie de la Santé (IRDES). The group will explain how the French system works, and what is being done to control health care expenditures while maintaining quality and universal access to health care at a cost which represents 9.7% of its gross domestic product in contrast to 14.6% in the United States. They will be joined by other experts on France and health systems around the world: Professors Lawrence Brown, Columbia University; Dov Chernichovsky, Ben-Gurion University, Israel; Michael Gusmano, Columbia University and World Cities Project, International Longevity Center; and Martin Schain, Center for European Studies, NYU.

As a follow-up, ELDHE will organize a series of more technical “study group” meetings between French and American health policy specialists to address and compare proposed solutions to specific problems.

The event is co-sponsored by the French Ministry of Health (Department of European and International Affairs), French-American Foundation, Maison Française (NYU), NYU Center for European Studies, International Health Policy Research, Rekindling Reform, International Longevity Center-USA, and NYU Wagner’s Office of International Programs.

The École Libre des Hautes Études (ELDHE) is a New-York based not-for-profit institution that promotes intellectual communications between French and American scholars, particularly in scientific or medical fields, through small study group meetings and a few larger colloquia. For more information on ELDHE, please contact Rene Jahiel, MD, PhD, 860.547.1202.

Established in 1938, the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service offers advanced programs leading to the professional degrees of Master of Public Administration, Master of Urban Planning, Master of Science in Management, and Doctor of Philosophy. Through these rigorous programs, NYU Wagner educates the future leaders of public, nonprofit, and health institutions as well as private organizations serving the public sector. For more information on NYU Wagner, please visit http://wagner.nyu.edu.

For more information on the French health care system, please contact Victor G. Rodwin (victor.rodwin@nyu.edu) or René Jahiel (Jahiel@nso2.uchc.edu).

Press Contact