Written by Alexis Goldberg,
Last Modified: 16th March 2017

The French healthcare system is amongst the best in the world. The hospitals are well funded, modern and well equipped, village GP’s offer a great service, and there is little, if any, waiting time for an appointment.

In order to benefit from the system, you will need to become affiliated with it. If you don’t, an average doctor’s appointment costs €23 (approx. £18), with more for any drugs prescribed or for on-going treatment. This nominal fee is fine for short visits but not for those planning on living in France full time.

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In order to benefit from the system, you will need to become affiliated with it.

The first thing to think about is residency. If you have a second home in France you may well want to stay within the UK system, and simply rely on your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This is free, and will cover you for emergencies, although you may have to pay up front before seeing a doctor.

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If you are a full time resident, and receiving a UK state pension you are entitled to transfer your healthcare rights to France via the S1 form (used to be called the E121). This is normally sent out as a matter of course from the Department of Work and Pensions in Newcastle along with notification of your pension. You need to take this form to your local CPAM office in France (there is one in most towns and larger villages), and you will receive your Carte Vitale. This entitles you to have roughly 70 percent of your medical treatment paid for.

Most French people, and many expats, take out what is called “top up” insurance, which will cover the part of the treatment that the state does not pay for, i.e. the remaining 30 percent.

If you are in employment in France you will be entitled to a Carte Vitale. If you are married and working in France, your spouse is entitled to be joined on to your Carte Vitale, and will also receive the 70% payment.

There are varying levels of cover ranging from around €30 to €100 (approx. £23 to £78) per month, but the amounts do vary across France’s regions. Seek recommendations from neighbours, friends, and fellow expats for good insurance companies. You could of course not go for the top up, and still know that you will only pay 30 percent of any treatments. However, if you are retirement age or older, for peace of mind we recommend paying the extra amount.

On a personal level we have nothing but praise for the French healthcare system. We have several friends who sing its praises, one even recalling how her GP sent private taxis for her when she was undergoing regular chemo treatments in hospital (she is fully recovered now).

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