Welcome to Part Two of À AIMER: Getting Sick, or The Joys of Civilized Medicine (thank you reader Kent for suggesting that we replace the word "Socialized" with "Civilized").
Americans who oppose national health care systems often cite high taxes as their primary reason for preferring capitalized medicine. Government health care, they say, would cost way too much money. Taxes would be unbelievably high — as high as they are in France. Do you want to pay 60 percent of your income to Big Brother just for a free trip to the doctor?
Lest you think that I've morphed into Rush Limbaugh, let me cut the unsubstantiated banter and get to the facts: how much do French citizens pay for their national health care system?
A LOOK AT FRENCH INCOME TAXES
The French, just like Americans, pay annual income taxes (and they are also entitled to deductions). A portion of their yearly impôts is allocated to la sécurité sociale, which covers health care, welfare, worker's compensation, unemployment, and retirement.
This is the current French income tax structure:
0 to €5,852 - 0%
€5,853 to 11,673 - 5.5%
€11,674 to 25,926 - 14%
€25,927 to 69,505 - 30%
More than €69,505 - 40%
So a person who earns €25,000 per year pays 14 percent of that income to Marianne, France's version of Uncle Sam. For their contribution, they receive health insurance and are entitled to worker's compensation, unemployment, and retirement benefits. A French citizen making €90,000 pays 40 percent of her income to receive the same. It is important to note that these income tax brackets are per person, not married-filing-jointly, which is an option in the United States. So a French couple making €50,000 each would each pay 30 percent of their incomes in taxes. The tax on their €100,000 combined household income would be €30,000.
Now let's look at the American federal income tax structure for 2009:
Single FilersMarried Filing Jointly
0 to $8,350 - 10%0 to $16,700 - 10%
$8,350 to 33,950 - 15%$16,700 to 67,900 - 15%
$33,950 to 82,250 - 25%$67,900 to 137,050 - 25%
$82,250 to 171,550 - 28%$137,050 to 208,850 - 28%
$171,550 - 373,950 - 33%$208,850 to 372,950 - 33%
More than €372,950 - 35%More than $372,950 - 35%
So, in the United States, a single American who earns $25,000 per year pays 15 percent of his income to Uncle Sam (the Marianne taxpayer pays 14 percent). And an American couple earning $100,000 ($50,000 each) pays 25 percent of their income in taxes for a grand total of $25,000 (the French couple pays €30,000).
The American couple pays less, but wait — in which state do they reside? While French citizens pay only national income taxes, American citizens must pay federal and state taxes (unless they live in a no-tax state like Wyoming, as Dick Cheney does). Let's say our American couple lives in the most populous of the 50 states: California. Here is the current (2008) state income tax structure for married couples filing jointly:
California State income taxes / Married Filing Jointly
0 to $14,336 - 1%
$14,336 to 33,988 - $143.36 plus 2%
$33,988 to 53,642 - $536.40 plus 4%
$53,642 to 74,466 - $1,322.56 plus 6%
$74,466 to 94,110 - $2,572 plus 8%
More than $94,110 - $4,143.52 plus 9.3%
So our American couple earning $100,000 in the Golden State will pay + $9,300 + $4,143.52 + $25,000, or $38,443.52 to Uncle Sam — more than that French couple living in that "socialist" land that did not invent "Freedom Fries" (it was Belgium).
And what does our French couple get for their hard-earned cash?