Essential guide to the French healthcare system - finding a hospital, doctor, or dentist.
France’s healthcare system is one of the best in the world, and there are some significant differences between healthcare in France and its UK counterpart.
France has first class medical care, with modern hospitals furnished with the latest equipment and technology; in fact the World Health Organisation states that France outranks all other countries for its healthcare system, and they come high on the list of healthcare spend to maintain this. Contributions towards the healthcare system in France are made to the French social security system by French employers, employees and the self-employed, and in turn, many of these contributions go towards public healthcare, which can be accessed by every legal resident of France – provided that they are registered with the basic French State health system.
The French State Health System
Once you are registered with the French public health system, part of your medical treatment is covered by the State. You will receive a carte vitale (green card), and you must present this whenever you visit a doctor, specialist or hospital, or to purchase prescription medicine. You will usually have to pay the bill and then you will be reimbursed at a later date; you will receive 70% back for the cost of your visit to a médecin traitant (GP), 80% for hospitalisation and between 30%-100% for prescriptions.
Once you are registered by the French public health system, part of your medical treatment is covered by the State.
To qualify for the maximum possible State reimbursement, you must be registered with a médecin traitant. You are free to choose your own GP and can submit a declaration to outline who this is. Children under 16 must have their declaration signed by their parent or guardian, although members of the same family can have a different GP. If you are treated by a GP or specialist that is not your médecin traitant, then your reimbursed costs may only be 30% of the total price. All medical treatments, from a routine check up to a major surgical procedure, are costed on a tariff, known as tariff de convention. Practitioners from all medical facilities who adhere to this tariff are defined as conventionné; those who do not adhere are non-conventionné – and these can charge whatever price they like, and none of the cost will be reimbursed. Around 98% of practitioners are conventionné, along with most private clinics. Some conventionné practitioners, particularly surgeons, will still charge more than the tariff if they deem it appropriate. This additional charge is known as the dépassement, and is favoured by the practitioners known as Secteur 2. These dépassements are more likely to be charged in some areas of France than in others, such as Paris and the Côte d’Azur regions. It is always a good idea to find out if a dépassement will be charged prior to undergoing treatment.
Before you go
Before you move to France, make sure you collate copies of your up to date medical records from the UK, so that your new care providers have access to all your accurate data straightaway. To obtain these, you will need to write to your GP with all your personal information. It may take a while for these to arrive, so we would recommend leaving plenty of time before you move – especially as it’s a good idea to ensure they are all up to date before you request them. It’s also a good idea to research any local illnesses, diseases and health warnings. You should be able to find this on the UK Foreign Office’s website. We would also suggest ensuring that you are up to date with all necessary vaccinations.
One of the first things on your list of things to do when you arrive in France is research the name of your nearest hospital, the name of your doctor and the best time to make an appointment at your surgery. This is unlikely to work exactly the same way that you are used to at home, so researching your options is of utmost priority. Once you have done so, you will usually find it fairly easy to obtain an appointment and most of the smaller villages will have at least one resident GP.
The healthcare system in France is unlikely to work exactly the way you are used to at home, so researching your options is of utmost priority.
It is always a good idea to ensure that your home has a fully stocked First Aid kit, with all the basics and emergency treatment equipment such as bandages, gauze and saline solution – as well as a list of all allergies of family members, emergency numbers, insurance details and family contract details.
Are you entitled to French healthcare?
If you are immigrating to France permanently, you may find that you are automatically entitled to French state healthcare (if you are drawing your state pension, for example). The best way to find out what you are entitled to is to speak to the Department of Work and Pensions in the UK – and to permanent reside in France you are legally required to have health cover. If you are entitled to French state healthcare through your pension (and only at state pension age), you must arrive in France with an EC Health Form S1 from you country of origin; you will then automatically receive the CarteI Vitale which will enable you to proceed in the same way as French nationals. Those who arrive in France without this form and do not intend to work will have no right to any State health cover and must apply to their local Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM – the French health offices) for Couverture Maladie Universelle (CMU – basic healthcare rights). Once you have legally and continuously resided in France for five years, you will receive permanent residence and basic CMU becomes a right.
If you pay into the French social security system, you will be entitled to state healthcare.
You will also be entitled to healthcare in France if you are paying into the social security system, as outlined above.
Private health insurance
Many permanent residents in France will purchase complementary health insurance to make up the shortfall between the State reimbursement and the actual cost of treatment, particularly to cover large hospitalisation costs and prescriptions; the cover can usually be chosen for specific items. It is so important to ensure you do this – after all, you don’t want to get caught out by a hefty cost should you be taken ill (especially seriously) unexpectedly. Premiums for this private cover will depend on your age and the level of cover you require. No medical questions are usually asked when acquiring a complementary policy. British citizens who do not have an S1 and do not intend to work, but do have proof of fully paid up National Insurance contributions (E106 form) will be able to receive medical care funded by the UK up to two years. After this time (if retirement age has not been reached), they must take out private health insurance. Costs of private insurance vary enormously and there are plenty of insurance companies, both French and international, who offer health insurance to expats in France. It is worth doing a price comparison exercise tailored to your individual needs. Finding out the cost for this insurance in advance could help you budget for your new life in France.
Taking care of your health doesn’t stop when you move to France. With Brexit on it’s way, there is now an added level of uncertainty about cheap and accessible healthcare overseas. This is why we have produced this guide to Healthcare Abroad in 2018 which provides information on:
✔ How to get French healthcare
✔ Private medical insurance
✔ Planning ahead
✔ How overseas services compare with the NHS
✔ What could happen after Brexit