France’s healthcare system is regarded as one of the best in the world, winning the World Health Organizations accolade for providing the best overall health care in the world. The healthcare system provides high quality services and is renowned for its accessibility. If you choose France as your new home then you will be covered by the social security system which includes health cover.
As a citizen of a European country (which includes all 25 EU members, Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein.) you are automatically entitled to free healthcare in France. European citizens travelling the continent should apply for a European Health Insurance card, these cards simplify the procedures required if you need or receive medical assistance during your trip.
If you choose to live in the country and are registered under the social security system then your spouse and any children under the age of 20 will be automatically covered unless they are self employed. Foreign students should look into the special student social security coverage.
Costs of healthcare
Unlike in the UK you will have to pay for any medical services you receive. Normally you have to pay medical expenses as they occur, such as visiting a doctor or buying prescribed medicines. You can then reclaim the costs via your health insurer.
A regular doctor often charges €20-30 for a consultation or up €25-40 for a specialist. Weekend consultations or home visits will cost you more. Types of payment vary: doctors usually prefer payment by check and some organisations might not accept cash. Only in some cases – such as some hospitalisations or if you are covered by specific heath coverage – you may be exempt from advance payment.
By being signed up to the social security system you will be able to reclaim most of your medical expenses. To claim back any costs you need to send a completed form (feuille de soins) to your CPAM (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie). These are issued by a doctor or a healthcare organization. Keep a photocopy of this form just in case it gets lost. When making your first claim, you should enclose your bank account details, called RIB (Relevé d’Identité Bancaire) – so payment can be made. Reimbursement takes usually 2-3 weeks.
How to get medication in France
France is a quite restrictive in the distribution of medication. Many drugs (such as antibiotics) that may be freely available in other countries are strictly prescription drugs in France.
For minor ailments most people visit the pharmacies. French pharmacists tend to be highly skilled and highly trained thanks to their six years of university studies. They are generally highly competent in providing treatment for many common illnesses and ailments. While not a substitute for a doctor if there is something really wrong with you, they can be a good place to start if you’re sick.
Pharmacies are open from Monday to Saturday between 9:00 and 20:00 and are closed on national holidays and Sundays. There is often one that provides out-of-hours services in most towns.
Thanks to state imposed price restrictions the cost of medicine in France is often a lot cheaper than those found in other European countries. If a member of the French social security system then prescribed medication is partly reimbursed by it. On the box you will find a detachable label (vignette) which you put on your claim form. The percentage reimbursed is as follows: 65% for a white vignette and 35% for a blue one.
Emergency numbers and procedures
The following is a list of emergency numbers for use in France:
This is the pan-European emergency number which can be called in any emergency from your mobile phone. As it’s a Europe-wide number, you can also ask to be connected to an English-speaking operator.
This number is for Medical emergencies/ accidents/ ambulances. The SAMU is a coordinated service and should be called in any serious medical emergency situation.
This number is for the French fire brigade, called les sapeurs pompiers. They should be called for any fire incidents or medical emergencies involving traffic or domestic accidents.
This number is for the nearest appropriate police service. You may be put through to either the police nationale or the gendarmerie a more militarised police force. For any non urgent matters you should call the direct number for your nearest police station.