March 29, 2010 / 5:49 PM / 9 years ago

Sarkozy on U.S. health reform: welcome to the club

NEW YORK (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy congratulated on Monday his colleague Barack Obama for passing healthcare reform that will put the United States into the “club of states which do not let sick people down.”

Speaking to students at Columbia University in New York, Sarkozy said Obama should be praised for the healthcare overhaul, which will extend coverage to an estimated 32 million uninsured Americans.

“But if you want me to be really honest, when we see the U.S. debate on the healthcare reform from Europe, it’s difficult to believe,” he said.

“The idea that we have such a violent debate so that the poor are not left on the streets without a cent when they are sick ... Excuse me, but we’ve solved this problem more than 50 years ago (in France).”

The overhaul of the $2.5 trillion healthcare system is the most dramatic change in U.S. health policy in four decades. Obama signed it into law last week after a bitter political battle in Congress.

The law bars insurance practices like refusing coverage to those with pre-existing medical conditions and provides more state aid for the Medicaid program for the poor.

Still, Sarkozy suggested France’s public health system model is superior, albeit more expensive to the government.

“If you come to France and you feel sick on the street we won’t ask for your credit card before admitting you into a hospital,” he said.

Reporting by Walter Brandimarte and Yann Le Guernigou; Editing by Eric Beech

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