A healthy outlook - Your healthcare needs covered

If you’re planning on moving to France in 2010, make sure you’ve got all your health needs covered, advises Larry Fulton

This is a time of the year when many people are thinking of moving to France. In spite of the adverse exchange rate and the uncertainties of the economic crisis, this year is no different; in fact, more people are moving to France than are leaving. It seems that the realisation has dawned that all the countries of Europe are affected and France is better than most. Certainly, it is one of the closest to Britain, and with its rich cultural heritage, welcoming village life and wide open countryside, it is one of the most attractive.

MEDICAL COVER An important consideration in making the move is ensuring that you have proper and continuous medical cover without a break on leaving your mother country. It is not difficult to achieve this if you plan well ahead and make the necessary arrangements in good time.

If you have experienced any problems with NHS services, you need have no such fears when you come to France. The French health service is officially recognised by the World Health Organisation as one of the best in the world and, indeed, even private medical insurance lags far behind. The French state provides the best healthcare possible.

MOVING WITHIN THE EU The European Union has established a highly efficient system for transferring the rights to health cover when moving from one member state to another, in order to enable free movement of all European citizens within its boundaries. The system is based on the European E-forms’ that are issued by all member states on behalf of the EU. These transfer forms are available from the health authorities in all member states. Here is a brief outline of the most used E-forms, all of which will provide you with medical and dental cover etc. under the French NHS in exactly the same way as a French citizen.

PENSIONERSThe E121 provides long-term medical cover for a retired person who is in receipt of a state retirement pension. If one person in a family qualifies, the others will be covered as the holder’s dependant medical beneficiaries.

EARLY RETIRED The E106 provides cover for up to two years for early retired non-working people. The qualification is to have worked and paid UK National Insurance Contributions (NIC) for the two years before taking early retirement. It provides cover for dependents in the same way as the E121.

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It is also issued to workers under certain circumstances which are not covered in this article. Papers dealing with this area as well as many other subjects are available on application to our national help service.

FAMILIES The E109 provides cover for members of a family going ahead to settle in France while one member of the family remains behind in employment, living, working and paying tax and NIC in the UK. Many people take advantage of this option, especially those who have holiday homes in France.

HOLIDAYMAKERS Before we leave this section on E-forms, mention should be made of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This is issued free and provides cover for visitors on a short-term basis. Once you decide to stay in France permanently, you become a settler, the EHIC is no longer valid and treatment may be declined. It is, however, very useful while you are in the planning stage or visiting the family.

THE FRENCH HEALTH SYSTEM You will find the French system is quite different from the UK NHS. Healthcare in France is not completely free – it operates via a co-insurance plan in which the state shares a percentage of the cost with the patient. In general terms you are expected to pay about 30% of your medical costs although this can vary widely depending on the type of treatment and your personal situation.

To cover most, if not all, of the shortfall unpaid by the French NHS, the vast majority of people living in France have private insurance policies running alongside the state system. These are often referred to as top-up policies and nearly all residents of France take advantage of one of the many varieties on offer. You will find that top-ups are much cheaper than full private policies.

There is a great deal you need to know about the operation of the French system in order to make the best use of it at the lowest possible cost. For instance, are all the necessary preparations for your healthcare in France complete? Do you know how to find and register with a GP? What are the factors to look for when selecting a top-up insurer? And so the list goes on... There is a wide range of issues to be considered, personal situations and needs vary, so if you would like to discuss your individual situation with someone in France who can help you, free of charge, please contact us.www.exclusivehealthcare.com