The medical care in France is first class, the hospitals are modern and benefit from the latest equipment and technology and general practitioners are usually excellent diagnosticians. Appointments tend to be relatively easy to obtain with shorter waiting times. You will find that many small villages have at least one resident GP.
One of the first things you need to do upon your arrival in France is find the nearest hospital, the name of your doctor, and the best time to make an appointment at your surgery. This is unlikely to work the same way that it does at home, and researching your options is of utmost priority.
Depending on whether you plan to remain a UK resident or move to France permanently, there are a number of options to cover your healthcare needs. Should you remain a UK resident, you will be able to use your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to receive healthcare whilst you are in France. If you are emigrating permanently, depending on your status in your home country, you could be entitled to French state health care (for example, if you are drawing your state pension). The best way to find out what you are entitled to is to speak to the Department of Work and Pensions in the UK. To permanently reside in France, you are legally required to have health cover.
Although it is expensive to maintain, the World Health Organisation states that France outranks major countries on its healthcare spend, and it offers a wide choice of general practitioners and healthcare specialists. French employers, employees and the self-employed make contributions towards the French social security system; employees pay more than 20% of their gross salary. A significant proportion of this money goes towards public healthcare, which is accessible by every legal resident of France – provided they are registered with the basic French State health system.
Once you are registered with the basic French State health system, part of your medical treatment is covered by the State, and if you are not, you will have to pay for all your treatment yourself. In either case, you must first pay the bill and then you will be reimbursed at a later date if you are eligible; you will receive 70% back for the cost of your visit to a médecin traitant (your GP), 80% for hospitalisation and between 30%-100% for prescriptions. Once registered with the French State health system you will receive a carte vitale (green card), and you must present this whenever you visit a doctor, specialist or hospital, or to purchase prescription medicine.
To qualify for the maximum possible State reimbursement, you must be registered with a médecin traitant. You are free to choose your own GP and can submit a declaration to outline who this is. Children under 16 must have their declaration signed by their parent or guardian, although members of the same family can have a different GP. If you are treated by a GP or specialist that is not your médecin traitant, then your reimbursed costs may only be 30% of the total price.
All medical treatments, from a routine check up to a major surgical procedure, are costed on a tariff, known as tariff de convention. Practitioners from all medical facilities who adhere to this tariff are defined as conventionné; those who do not adhere are non-conventionné – and these can charge whatever price they like, and none of the cost will be reimbursed. Around 98% of practitioners are conventionné, along with most private clinics.
Some conventionné practitioners, particularly surgeons, will still charge more than the tariff if they deem it appropriate. This additional charge is known as the dépassement, and is favoured by the practitioners known as Secteur 2. These dépassements are more likely to be charged in some areas of France than in others, such as Paris and the Côte d’Azur regions. It is always a good idea to find out if a dépassement will be charged prior to undergoing treatment.
Many permanent residents of France will purchase complementary health insurance to make up the shortfall between the State reimbursement and the actual cost of treatment, particularly to cover large hospitalisation costs and prescriptions – the cover can usually be chosen to cover specific items. Premiums will depend on your age and the level of cover you require. You should bear in mind that the State must have paid their share before the insurer will pay theirs – this means you have to be registered with a basic French State health system beforehand. No medical questions are asked when acquiring a complementary policy.
Under the EC Social Security Regulations, all EU expats arriving in France in possession of EC health Form S1 (which they will have if they are in receipt of a state pension) from their country of origin are eligible for basic French State healthcare for the period of the S1’s validity. Those who arrive in France withou an S1 and do not intend to work will have no right to any State health cover and must apply to their local CPAM (the French health offices) for a basic ‘Couverture Maladie Universelle’ (CMU), which is a State health system. Permanent residence and basic CMU becomes a right only once you have legally and continuously resided in France for five years, but not before. Retired residents with an S1 form will automatically receive the Carte Vitale, which will enable them to proceed in the same way as French nationals.
British citizens who do not have an S1 and do not intend to work, but do have proof of fully paid up National Insurance contributions (E106 form) will have medical care funded by the UK up to two years. After this time, if retirement age is still not reached, they will have to take out private health insurance. Costs of private insurance vary enormously but you can expect to pay on average around €2,000 (approx. £1,610) per year. There are plenty of insurance companies, both French and international, who offer health insurance to expats in France and it is worth doing a price comparison exercise tailored to your individual needs.
Finding out the cost for this insurance now could help you budget for your new life in France. Put your mind at rest and click here to get a free, no-obligation quote from a leading healthcare provider today.