Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Poor people’s doctor wanted
Jee Eun Kim arrived in the office around 3 p.m. and she brought me a bag of pastel rose dragée sweets. I explained to her that in France these sugared almonds were consumed when celebrating a wedding or a newborn baby but I was delighted to eat them anyway with my afternoon coffee. To show recognition I put a handful of dragée sweets in my mouth.
   I shouldn’t. I broke my tooth. I needed to go to the dentist. Not to repair the broken tooth in the first place but to get a price quote to claim supplementary healthcare benefits to finance the operation. It promised to be expensive as I could feel I had only half of the tooth left in my mouth.
As long as my claim for universal health care was still on hold, I needed to find another provisory solution to finance my health care. These kinds of situations characterize the French benefit system. Even if you fulfill the criteria to get this or that benefit, the bureaucracy takes time and you need to find another solution or get by somehow without the benefit.
   The problem was that no dentist practicing in the center of Paris is willing to accept patients with government aid or universal health care. The French social security system is based on contributions and, in the beginning the universal health care was created to cover migrants and asylum seekers with no health care. Gradually more and more unprivileged nationals had fallen under the income ceiling and the local Obamacare, CMU has become the only way for the health care system to operate for more than five million people living in France.
   At the same time it becomes harder and harder to find a doctor who accepts these patients. Doctors practicing in the center of Paris pay high rents and, therefore, place their tariffs accordingly. When making the appointment the unwelcome “social” patient usually learns that the doctor is fully booked for months ahead whereas a upscale patient gets an appointment for the very next day.

Muslims praying in the middle of the street
The social security office was able to give me some “poor-people’s doctor’s” addresses, all in the north or east of Paris. The Goutte d’Or dentist near Sacré Coeur was the closest. However, when I crossed the hens running free on the sidewalk I felt like I was far away abroad. These few building blocks along Goutte d’Or Street have a scary neighborhoods’ reputation but now it was daytime and I felt quite comfortable. Store windows’ mannequins wore headscarfs, skullcaps and kaftans. A kind of a garage-mosque was too small for all of the gathered Muslims and most of them were praying in the middle of the street.
   When approaching I could see that the doctor’s waiting line went around the building block. Only those who had arrived at dawn were now lucky to sit in the waiting room. I looked at the people in line: Black and brown faces, hijab scarfs, flowing wide sleeved boubou robes. When I left Finland fifteen years ago my mother asked whether a Finnish national costume would be of any use in France. I imagined myself at the end of the line wearing my Häme home region’s long red woolen skirt, white apron, checkered vest and scarf, eighteenth century’s sharp lace hat and buckled shoes. I almost missed the costume now!

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