If you’re moving to France, you can look forward to accessing one of the most renowned healthcare systems in the world. It covers everything from GP consultations to dental treatments to eye tests, providing a vast infrastructure of care for those living in France. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what to expect to get health insurance in France.
How the healthcare system works in France
France boasts a system of universal public healthcare which is known as protection universelle maladie, or PUMa. This provides wide-ranging medical coverage for anyone who is either working in France or has been living in the country on a stable, continuous basis for at least three months.
French residents contribute to this public healthcare system through mandatory social security payments of around 8% of their salary. Those earning below a certain threshold – €9,041 for a single person as of this writing – are entitled to free healthcare.
The system works by reimbursing you a proportion of whatever you pay to receiving medical treatment. If you suffer from a chronic and serious illness as defined by an official list, 100% of the medical fees will be reimbursed. Otherwise, there’ll usually be some medical fees left to pay. Most people in France have private ‘top-up’ health insurance policies, known as mutuelles, which cover some or all of this deficit. When you are looking to get heath insurance in France, it’s important to note that unlike private health insurance in other countries such as the UK, a mutuelle is simply a form of financial assistance, rather than a way to cut waiting times for treatment or access private hospitals.
What does the public healthcare system cover?
The French public healthcare system will reimburse some of the costs of a very diverse range of services and treatments, including:
- GP consultations
- Specialist consultations
- Scans and diagnostic tests
- Hospital treatments and care
- Emergency care
- Dental care
- Maternity care
- Mental health care
- Physiotherapy and speech therapy
- Eye tests, glasses, contact lenses, and hearing aids
- Prescription medications
How to access France’s healthcare system
Many immigrants who are looking to get health insurance in France will have a job secured in France before they arrive. If that’s your situation, your registration with social security and the healthcare system will usually be handled by your employer. Self-employed people will be automatically enrolled when they register with the Sécurité Sociale Indépendants. If you’re not working and have lived in France for at least three months, you can register yourself by filling in this form and submitting it to your local CPAM (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie) office, which handles healthcare administration. A number of documents will be required, such as a photocopy of your passport, birth certificate, and French residency permit, and proof of address such as a rental agreement and utility bills for the past three months. Meanwhile, international students in France can access the healthcare system by registering for social security here.
Once your details have been registered, you can create your own healthcare account here. This is highly recommended, as you’ll be able to easily track your healthcare reimbursements on your account page. You can also order your Carte Vitale through this site, although it’s also possible to apply by post using a form that will be sent to you when you register with social security.
The Carte Vitale resembles a credit card and must be presented when you make use of medical services in France – for example, at a doctor’s surgery or a hospital. The card will be inserted into a reader, in order to register the service or treatment you’ve received with the healthcare system. You’ll then get a percentage of the medical fee reimbursed to your bank account, usually within a week. Bear in mind that the Carte Vitale isn’t a payment method, so you’ll be expected to pay any money owed using cash or bank card.
To ensure you’re eligible to get the highest possible reimbursement percentage for healthcare services in France, it’s crucial that you register a particular doctor as your primary care physician, or médecin traitant. You’re free to seek out the doctor of your choice, using directories such as Doctolib and KelDoc. You may need to shop around, however, as many doctor’s surgeries may be running at maximum capacity and not taking on new patients. Once you’ve found the right doctor, they’ll officially log their status as your médecin traitant and act as your first point of entry for many healthcare services in France.
Healthcare costs will vary depending on the type of treatment and its related reimbursement percentage. For example, a standard consultation with your doctor will typically cost €25. The public health insurance system will reimburse 70% of this cost, though there’s also a flat-rate contribution of €1 that you must pay. The rest will have to be paid either by you or your mutuelle insurance policy.
The current reimbursement rates for hospital treatments, prescription medications, dental treatments, and other services can be found here. There are a few additional factors to bear in mind if you are looking to get health insurance in France:
- The public healthcare system’s reimbursement percentages are only applied to official base rate fees for services or treatments. In reality, however, the fees charged by doctors, dentists, opticians, and specialists may be considerably higher than this base rate, which means you’ll have to pay more out of your own pocket (or through a mutuelle policy).
- While a large percentage of hospital treatment fees are reimbursed, you’ll usually be expected to pay €20 per day to cover accommodation, food, and so on. Certain patients, such as those admitted to hospital for childbirth, are exempt from this fee. Some mutuelle policies may also cover the fee.
As we discussed earlier, mutuelles are top-up insurance policies which contribute towards fees not covered by the public healthcare system. By law, private companies in France must provide employees with a top-up insurance policy and pay at least 50% of the cost. If your circumstances are different – for example, you’re a student, self-employed, or work in the public sector – then you may want to arrange your own mutuelle policy.
Such policies are provided by banks, insurance companies, and non-profit organisations referred to as mutuelles. It’s a good idea to take some time to compare and contrast the various packages available, paying attention to how much they cost and how much they’ll reimburse for different treatments. Two useful price comparison portals for mutuelles are Assurland and Empruntis.
It’s well worth having a mutuelle in place to cover assorted medical fees higher than the official base rate as mentioned earlier. Plus, most mutuelle policies will give you access to 100% Santé, a relatively new initiative which slashes certain costs for eyewear, dental care, and hearing aids. Items and services listed as 100% Santé are fully covered by public and mutuelle insurance plans.