CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to France Magazines today CLICK HERE

Healthcare in France: What is a mutuelle?

PUBLISHED: 11:19 08 February 2017

Healthcare in France: What is a mutuelle? © megaflopp / Thinkstockphotos

Healthcare in France: What is a mutuelle? © megaflopp / Thinkstockphotos


The French healthcare system is considered one of the best examples of universal care at affordable rates – but how does the mutuelle work?

What is a mutuelle?

As the state only pays for around 70% of the majority of healthcare costs, many of those living in France choose to purchase a top-up health insurance, called a mutuelle, to cover the rest of the cost.

There are numerous insurers to choose from and, as with all types of insurance, a wide range of policies with varying degrees of cover and premiums. Basic packages tend to cover hospital costs and medicine, but you can choose to add things like dental costs. It is worth shopping around and seeking advice to ensure you choose the best policy for your needs and budget. If you’re an employee of a company, you will most likely be able to join the company’s policy as part of your benefits package.

However this complementary health insurance should not be confused with private health cover in the UK. Although bought by the individual, it simply assists financing the personal contribution element of French healthcare. It is inexpensive, does not guarantee faster treatment times and is not affiliated to private practitioners or clinics as with the UK private healthcare model.

In terms of payment, the individual pays for treatment and the relevant State fund is automatically alerted via the carte vitale system. The percentage refunded by the State is then indicated to the relevant mutuelle which calculates accordingly how much it will reimburse.


Related articles

Healthcare for expats in France
Visiting a French pharmacy
What healthcare are retirees entitled to in France?

If you work for a private company...

Since January 2016 it became compulsory for private companies to provide employees with a company private health insurance policy known as a mutuelle collective. The company must contribute a minimum 50% of the mutuelle’s cost, and employees in theory are obliged to join the scheme unless they have a good reason for not doing so. (This new law does not apply to public sector organisations.) Many private companies have long had a mutuelle collective in place as a staff perk, with many also extending rights to employees’ immediate family members.

If you don’t...

For the rest of the population – civil servants, job seekers, students, pensioners, the self-employed – the only option is a mutuelle under a contrat individuel, and these generally offer less favourable terms. However, the cost of a mutuelle is not comparable with private health cover in the UK. It’s generally affordable and the majority of people in France have one, albeit one offering greater or lesser cover according to their needs and financial means.

How to choose a mutuelle

But be warned: the mutuelle marketplace is crowded and competitive, so it’s advisable to ask French friends or even the local doctor for recommendations to be sure that your choice of mutuelle is right for your needs. You can get a basic idea of costs by looking at online comparison sites, but don’t use them to make a selection as most of these sites are either linked to, or receive commissions from, insurance companies and are not therefore offering independent advice.

The small print of a mutuelle contract, in particular the reimbursement calculation, is not simple to follow. You need to look carefully at what each mutuelle offers, both in terms of cover (basic and options) and compare this with your actual or likely needs, and understand clearly how much they actually reimburse. The latter may be indicated as a fixed amount or in percentage terms. Beware of the percentage indication because this signifies a percentage of the tarif de convention (TC) – i.e. the fixed price set by the state and upon which the state payment contribution is based.

If the health practitioner adheres to the TC and the mutuelle states you will receive 100% of the TC, then you will be effectively reimbursed for all the share of the fee not covered by the state contribution. However, if the practitioner does not adhere to the TC, as many specialist practitioners do not, then they are free to set their own prices which may be much higher – but the mutuelle will still only pay for your share of costs up to 100% of the TC, leaving you to pay the rest of the actual cost. Because of this anomaly, it isn’t unusual to see some mutuelle reimbursements indicated as 150%, 200% or even 400% for more specialised treatments.

Also be aware of the conditions for changing your options and ending your contract. Termination (résiliation) conditions in particular can be quite specific, requiring notice given well in advance within a certain time window, and it is almost impossible to end a contract before it has run its course.

Written by Kate McNally

Read our other articles on:

Healthcare entitlement for retirees
Healthcare for expats

More from Living in France

Tue, 13:44

French cheese doesn’t just have to be saved for the cheeseboard, why not experiment with canapés too?

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

How does a jewellery designer, filmmaker and restaurateur who was born in Israel and grew up in New York come to turn a French château into an artists’ retreat? Ziggy Attias shares his life in Champagne-Ardenne

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

France has helped launch a satellite to study the effects of global warming; but how do French attitudes towards climate change compare to those of other Europeans?

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

France has historically been on the leading edge of eco-friendly projects and regulations. While many argue that much more needs to be done to meet environmental goals in France and globally, here are 11 ways that French government, companies and people are striving to be green.

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Seen a French property that would make fabulous food business but unsure of the paperwork and process? Read Tracy Leonetti’s at-a-glance guide to opening a restaurant or cafe in France

Read more
Running a business
Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Thinking of setting up a campsite in France? Here’s what you’ll need to consider when it comes to planning permission.

Read more
Tuesday, June 26, 2018

With its unbeatable wine and cheese and laissez-faire attitude, there’s nowhere better to retire than France. But which cities are best for growing old in? Here’s the top 10

Read more
Pays de la Loire
Thursday, January 25, 2018

If you are buying in or moving to France you will need a French bank account but before you open one make sure you read these 11 things you need to know to avoid making a costly mistake

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

France might be experiencing a shortage of general practitioners but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find a GP willing to take on new patients. Here’s what you need to know about finding and registering with a doctor when you move to France

Read more
Expats in France
Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The French pharmacy is so much more tham a place to pick up your prescriptions. Here are 11 things you might not know about pharmacies in France.

Read more
Healthcare in France
Subscribe for

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

France Forum

Questions about France? Visit our free France forum to get help and advice from thousands of other Francophiles and expats. Topics include: property, tax, law, travelling, pets, education, healthcare and much more.

Join the forum

Most Read

Join us on social media

France magazine
Living France magazine
French Property News magazine

Enter our competitions

Win books, DVDs, travel and even holidays in France in our great competitions! Take a look at our latest competitions…

Enter now