Written by Erin Harding,
Last Modified: 17th December 2021

The good news for British retirees moving to France is that their healthcare costs will be covered by the UK government, even if they have moved there after the withdrawal agreement, or are moving in the future! We cover more about post-Brexit healthcare rules…

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Can I use my EHIC or GHIC card when visiting the doctor in France?

Yes, you can! Reciprocal healthcare is continuing, meaning that there is a healthcare agreement in place between the UK and the EU. This includes the use of the EHIC and new GHIC cards, both of which are valid until they expire. You just need to make sure you take them to a public hospital or health centre, as they are not accepted within private healthcare.

When your EHIC card expires, just visit the GHIC portal and apply for one. Your EHIC will remain valid until it expires. It’s important to remember, however, that these cards are generally used for ‘necessary care’, such as emergencies, and should be supplemented with full health or travel insurance. There are certain things that they don’t cover, such as medical repatriation.

These cards are handy for those who are going to visit their holiday home or going to France for a holiday. However, if you are moving there permanently, you should register with the French healthcare system.

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Can a UK pensioner who moves to France post-Brexit access free healthcare?

Yes – if you have a UK state pension, you can request an S1 form, which entitles you to UK funded healthcare in France. Eligible pensioners and their family members can continue to have their healthcare covered by the UK should they move to the EU. You should register your S1 form with one of the local French state health reimbursement offices.

It’s important to remember that the S1 form entitles you to the same healthcare as a French citizen and French healthcare does not work in the same way as the NHS. For example, the state will typically only cover a portion of your healthcare costs – on average, 70% (depending on the treatment and practitioner). The remaining portion would be paid by you or by your ‘top-up’ insurance, which is usually inexpensive.

The French healthcare system is very flexible, however. If you have a chronic illness, for example, then often the reimbursement rate would go up to 100%.

If you are an S1 holder in France, you’ll be entitled to a GHIC to use in other EU member states, but you will not be able to use this to access French healthcare.

If you have a UK state pension, you can request an S1 form, which entitles you to UK funded healthcare in France.

How long does it take to register with the French healthcare system?

It can take up to six months, so make sure you do your research beforehand and have your documents ready! If you’re moving to France and not working (e.g. you may be an early retiree) you need to be in France for 3 months before starting your registration for French healthcare. During this time, you should make sure that you have access to private healthcare.

After 3 months have passed, you can make your first application to receive a temporary social security number, which can again take 3 months. This allows you to get medical reimbursement. After another 3 months, this number becomes permanent and you can apply for a Carte Vitale, which is a medical reimbursement card that makes it easier to claim for your medical expenses.

Before pension age, do you need private healthcare?

If you move to France without professional employment, you can access the French healthcare system based on residency. You will need to have waited 3 months before requesting access to state healthcare.

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If you move to France for work, can you pay into and benefit from the French healthcare system?

Yes! You can make your healthcare application as soon as you start working. If you are self-employed, you will need to register for social security contributions in France.

If you are crossing the border into France at least once a week for work, you may be entitled to an S1 as a frontier or cross-border worker. To find out if you are eligible, contact HMRC.

Will you still get free access to the NHS after moving to France?

As the NHS is a residency-based service, you shouldn’t expect to receive the same access as you would if you were living in the UK. If you are working in France or an early retiree who has access to state French healthcare, you may be entitled to a French European Health Insurance Card, which covers you for ‘necessary’ care whilst in the UK and will cover you for a short stay.

You may be an S1 holder who moved before the end of the transition period, so you can use your special UK EHIC card to access NHS services or a copy of your S1 card.

Buying a House in France Guide.

Buying a property in France is extremely exciting, but it can be nerve-wracking: in what ways is the process different to the UK, how do you cope with the language difference, what fees should you expect and just who is the notaire? That’s why we’ve put together our France Buying Guide, to help you through the process, step by step.

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