I had my first real experience with the French health care system, other than the doctor at work, and I certainly do notice a few differences between here and the US. Paging Michael Moore...
First of all, I noticed that in the doctor's office there was no nurse there. There was a receptionist down at the front, but I had been sent to some sub-waiting room, and Dr. Pinelli opened the door himself and sat me down across a desk from him, and said, "Dites moi." There was also no taking of my medical history, no showing proof of insurance, no forms to fill out whatsoever, he didn't even ask me my address.
Further, Dr. Pinelli did not have on a white coat. He was wearing a slim-fitting button-down shirt tucked into tight and stylish jeans. He also sported boots and a one-day growth of beard. If we were in NYC I would assume he was on his way to a nightclub.
After I told him the story, he walked me into the adjoining room and told me to undress. In the US, of course, this is an elaborate process involving handing you a paper gown, closing the door and letting you undress alone, and then a gentle knock on the door when the doctor enters, all of which gives the vague impression of greater hygiene and dignity. In France, the doctors just stand there in front of you, waiting, while you undress. Which in my case was actually kind of helpful since with my shoulder, elbow, and hand injuries it is a little hard to get shirts on and off-- but nonetheless this all is a little jarring to someone used to the American rigamorole. And of course there is no paper for you to wrap yourself in, you are just standing there half naked.
Then afterwards he walked me back to the desk, typed the prescriptions into the computer himself (what-- no lackeys? Doctors do their own typing?) handed them to me, and charged me 30 euros for the visit. Can you imagine spending 30 bucks on an initial doctors visit anywhere, anytime in the US? 100% of which of course (!) will be reimbursed by my insurance company. It was the cheapest thing I spent money on that day, since the prescriptions were 43 euros (they'll also be 100% reimbursed) and my monthly Metrocard renewal was 47 euros.
He was perfectly pleasant, although he had slightly less English than I had originally been led to believe. He did say, "Eeet ees your first veesit to Rome? And your last, non?"
Then I went to the pharmacie, and after several unsuccessful attempts to use the one-and-only credit card I have in my possession at this point-- their credit card reader wasn't working and this being France, they only have one in the store-- the woman at the counter told me to just come back and pay later. I was feeling a bit desperate for the mega-ibuprofen and worried that she wouldn't give me the meds but she handed everything to me anyway with a friendly, "à apres-midi!" And she didn't hold on to my credit card or anything, they trust you to pay. Pas de problem. All in all, perfectly smooth and trouble-free health care.