THE FRENCH HEALTH SYSTEM
Being ill in the UK is very simple. You see your doctor and if necessary you go to hospital. There are no forms to fill out, no money exchanges hands, your only worry is how long the waiting list is.
France was voted the world’s best health service in 2000 by the World Health Organisation, however, this does not come free of charge.
Whether you are on holiday or living in France, you pay at the moment of treatment. All medical treatments from a routine GP visit to major surgical procedures have an official rate. The doctor/specialist you see may work at the official rate (conventionné) or may charge more (non-conventionné).
How you become affiliated to the French system depends on your status
An EU citizen on holiday / spending a winter or summer season
You must have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows you to access state-provided healthcare in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland at a reduced cost or sometimes free of charge. The EHIC is valid for up to five years. The EHIC is NOT an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or the cost of things such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, repatriation to the UK or lost or stolen property.
Also, the card will not cover the cost of treatment for someone who decides to travel to France specifically to be treated for an existing condition.
The EHIC is not valid for residents of France.
Moving to France:
You are an officially retired UK citizen
You can join the French healthcare system.
If you are planning to live in France yet continue working for a UK company, you will be able to join the French healthcare system if you have an S1 (the old E106). Unlike if you are retired, you will only be eligible for the duration of your card, this can be up to 2 years but is normally less.
The EHIC is not valid.
An EU citizen living and working in France
You need to affiliate as a French resident.
How it works
Once you have become affiliated you will receive a social security number and a Carte Vitale. You will take this card with you whenever you visit a doctor, specialist or hospital, and when you pick up prescribed medicines.
The French government refund up to 70% off all healthcare costs. The rest is for you to pay. Most French people have a health insurance policy which covers them for the 30% + which is left. This is commonly known as a ‘Mutuelle’.
To be fully reimbursed for medical consultations/treatments from healthcare professionals other than your GP, you need a prescription: for example: if you want physiotherapy after a nasty sprain. Essentially, the only specialists you can consult without a prescription are ophthalmologists, gynaecologists, psychiatrists and dentists. If in doubt ring your GP and ask before making an appointment.
In France your eyes are tested by an Opthalmologist, here in Chamonix the waiting list is extremely long: an average of 9-10 months. Unlike in the UK, you cannot just go into an opticians (shop) and get your eyes tested. Some optician shops are now offering to test if your eyes have changed/require a prescription.
Mutuelles/Top Up Health insurance
Your health costs are covered by the French government under the guise of the Assurance Maladie sometimes known as ‘Sécurité Sociale, the Sécu / Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie or CPAM.
The Assurance Maladie has a fixed scale for refunding medical acts and medicines, with a maximum limit of 70%. With your Carte Vitale you will be refunded in accordance with this scale.
The mutuelle reimburses the remaining 30% + and pays some or all the costs for items that are not covered by the state, such as contact lenses, glasses, routine health checks such as smear tests and dental check ups or visits to specialists such as psychologists and dermatologists.
See the page on Insurance to find out how Mutuelle's work.
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Disclaimer: The information contained in this website should be regarded as a guideline only. I try and update the information as often as possible but it is possible that certain information has been missed. I would love to be the font of all knowledge but unfortunately I am not! All situations are different and the information contained here may not be applicable to all cases. Please get in touch if you would like me to check any information in relation to your personal situation. My role is to be your voice, to ask the questions you would like asking and those that I know you should be asking. During the course of my work I have gained knowledge of lots of different aspects of French administration and can generally advise you on what is important and what isn't. Dealing with the French system on a daily basis means that I can help you do things far faster and can assist you through the minefield.
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