If you move to France , you can expect access to one of the most renowned health insurance systems in the world. It covers everything from general doctor visits to dental treatment and eye exams. Let’s take a closer look at what we can expect.
How the health Insurance works in France
France has a universal public health system known as protection universelle maladie , or PUMa. This provides extensive medical coverage for all those who work in France or who have been living in the country in a stable and continuous way for at least three months.
French residents contribute to this public health system through mandatory social security payments of around 8% of your salary. Those with incomes below a certain limit, €9,041 per person as of the date of this publication, are entitled to free health care.
The system works by reimbursing you a portion of what you pay for medical treatment. If you suffer from a chronic or serious illness as defined by an official list , 100% of the medical fees will be reimbursed. Otherwise, there will usually be some medical fee to pay. Most people in France have ‘comprehensive’ health insurance policies, known as mutuelles , which cover some or all of this shortfall. It is important to note that unlike private health insurance in countries like the UK, a mutuelle is simply a form of financial assistance, rather than a way to cut waiting times for treatment or access to private hospitals.
What does the public health system cover?
The French public health system will reimburse some of the costs of a diverse range of services and treatments, including:
Consultations with a general practitioner
Consultations with specialists
Diagnostic exams and tests
Treatments and hospital care
mental health care
Physiotherapy and speech therapy
Eye exams, glasses, contact lenses and hearing aids
How to access the French health system
Many immigrants will have a secure job in France before they even arrive in the country. If this is your situation, normally your registration with the social security and health system will be managed by your employer. Self-employed workers will be automatically registered when they register with the Sécurité Sociale Indépendants . If you are not working and have lived in France for the last three months, you can register by filling in this form and sending it to your local office of the Caja Primaire de Seguro, CPAM ( Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie,in French), which deals with the administration of medical care. Several documents are needed, such as photocopies of your passport, birth certificate and residence permit from France and proof of address, such as a rental agreement and utility bills from the last three months. Meanwhile, international students in France can access the health system by registering for social security here .
After your details are registered, you can create your own healthcare account here . We highly recommend that you do this, as you will be able to easily track your healthcare reimbursements on your account page. You can also request your Carte Vitale through this site, although you can also request it by mail using a form that will be sent to you when you register with social security.
The Carte Vitale is similar to a credit card and you should have it with you when using medical services in France. For example, in a doctor’s office or in a hospital. This card will be inserted into a reader so that the service or treatment you have received in the health system is recorded. After this, you will receive a refund equal to a percentage of the medical fee in your bank account, which usually takes a week. Please note that the Carte Vitale is not a payment method, therefore you are expected to pay any amount due using cash or bank card.
Health care costs
To ensure that you are eligible for the highest possible percentage of reimbursement for health care services in France, it is important that you register a specific doctor as your GP, or médecin traitant . You are free to search for the doctor of your choice, using directories like Doctolib and KelDoc . You may need to do some exploring, as many medical offices may be operating at full capacity and not taking new patients. After you have found your ideal doctor, he or she will officially register his or her status as your médecin traitant and will act as your first point of entry for many of France’s healthcare services.
Health care costs will vary depending on the type of treatment and whether it relates to the reimbursement percentage. For example, a standard consultation with your doctor will usually cost €25. The public health system will reimburse you for 70% of that cost, although there is also a fixed contribution of €1 that you must pay. The remaining amount will have to be paid by you or your mutuelle insurance policy .
You can find current reimbursement rates for hospital treatment, prescription drugs, dental treatment, and other services here . There are some additional factors to take into account:
The reimbursement percentages of the public health system only apply to official base rates for services or treatments. However, in practice the fees charged by doctors, dentists, eye doctors and specialists could be considerably higher than these base fees, meaning you will have to pay more out of pocket (or through a mutuelle policy ).
While a large percentage of hospital treatment fees are reimbursed, you are typically expected to pay €20 per day to cover accommodation, food, etc. Certain patients such as those admitted to the hospital for childbirth are exempt from this fee. Some mutuelle policies may also cover the fee.
As we mentioned before, mutuelles are comprehensive insurance policies that contribute to fees not covered by the public health system. By law, private companies in France must provide employees with a comprehensive insurance policy and pay at least 50% of the cost. If your circumstances are different, for example, if you are a student, self-employed or work in the public sector, then you may want to apply for your own mutuelle policy .
Banks, insurance companies and non-profit organizations called mutuelles provide these policies. It’s a good idea to take the time to compare and contrast the various packages that are available, paying attention to their cost and how they will reimburse you for different treatments. Two useful price comparison portals for mutuelles are Assurland and Empruntis .
It is worth having a mutuelle to cover the various medical fees that are higher than the official base fee as mentioned above. Plus, most mutuelle policies give you access to 100% Santé , a
relatively new initiative that cuts certain costs like glasses, dental care, and hearing aids. Items and services classified as 100% Santé are fully covered by public and mutuelle insurance plans.