“We’re not covered by the French insurance system.”
I was only slightly surprised when my osteopath said this to me at the end of our visit. As someone who has spent most of his life outside of a single-payer healthcare system, and has confessed that he only goes to the doctor occasionally, I expect to always pay a little something when I have medical needs in France.
Part of my lower spine had been troubling me for several weeks and my exercise regimen wasn’t helping it to heal – but stopping exercise, even for just a couple weeks, was not an option I was willing to consider. In a past life, upon feeling this way, I would have immediately gone to my chiropractor in the US. Those visits were covered by my US insurance of the time. But I never had insurance in a post-Obamacare America. I left the US in 2013, before the changes to the insurance system began, and as such, have no idea whether chiropractic care is still covered in the way it might have been back then. But whatever might be the policies of the US insurance companies, it seemed that chiropractors really didn’t have a presence in France in general, and in Paris in particular, and so I made an appointment with “the next best thing,” an osteopath.
What’s the difference?
The osteopath who saw me took a few minutes to quickly parse the two disciplines. “It’s a vast oversimplification, but you might say that chiros are more exclusively spinally focused, whereas in addition to the spine we are concerned with respiratory and digestive issues. We also won’t see our patients as frequently.” She went on to tell me that the founder of chiropractic was actually a student of the founder of osteopathy for a short 6 weeks. However divergent their paths are now, both disciplines are a reaction to “traditional” treatments of the time in which they were invented, at the end of the 1800s.
In the end, because of my travel schedule last month, I double-dipped. The osteopath I saw in Paris made some helpful adjustments just 2 days before a trip I made stateside, and while I was in America I had 4 adjustments over a 2 week period with a chiropractor, including some time on a traction table. On all these visits on both sides of the Atlantic I paid cash (70€ for my French visit, and $50USD for each of my American visits), as I have no US insurance, and as I said, French insurance does not cover osteopathy. But, some mutuelle plans do. Would I finally be motivated to get one of those “top up” plans that the French are so attached to? Not yet. But seeing both the osteo and chiro helped tremendously, and my back feels a lot better now. I also managed to learn more about a field I didn’t know about and what the French system will pay for. So, the pain was worth it, if only to remind me to be grateful that I live in a country in which I can easily see a doctor when I have a problem, and not pay an exorbitant amount to do so.