If you’re retiring to France make sure you understand how the French healthcare system works and how you access it
As a retiree, what healthcare am I entitled to in France?
British retirees who live in France are entitled to the same healthcare as those paying their French social security contributions, provided they have paid their British National Insurance contributions and receive a UK state pension.
How does the French healthcare system work?
Rather than a healthcare system that is free at the point of use like the NHS, the French healthcare system is a reimbursement system. You pay upfront for your healthcare and then the French state reimburses you, usually within a week. However, the French state doesn’t cover the whole cost, it usually covers about 70% of the costs except in cases of chronic or acute medical conditions, such as cancer and heart disease, where it covers 100% of costs. There are standard costs for doctor consultations and hospital visits which you can find on www.ameli.fr
Once you are fully registered in the French healthcare system (see below) you will be sent a carte vitale. Every time you use the healthcare system you present your carte vitale and it is swiped to register the treatment you receive with the CPAM (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie). You pay for the treatment upfront and are then reimbursed a portion of the cost, paid directly into your bank account.
Many people take out additional private health insurance cover, called a mutelle, to cover this. There are numerous insurers and a wide range of policies with varying degrees of cover and premiums to choose from so it is worth shopping around and seeking advice to ensure you get the best policy for you.
A mutelle is not the same as private health insurance in the UK, it does not guarantee faster treatment times but is merely assists in financing the part of the cost of French healthcare that the state doesn’t cover. Once the state has reimbursed you its percentage of your healthcare costs your mutelle will be notified and it will then calculate how much it will reimburse you.
How do I register?
Before leaving the UK, apply for the S1 Form from the Department for Work and Pensions. The SI Form proves that you have reached retirement age, have paid the required number of social security contributions and are receiving a state pension. Present this to your local CPAM and this will cover your health costs in France for the first three months, at which point you will be eligible for state healthcare cover under the PUMA (la protection maladie universelle) regime (formally the CMU couverture maladie universelle).
To register with the French healthcare system, visit your local CPAM, which you can find here: http://www.ameli.fr/assures/votre-caisse/index.php
You will need to show the following documents to register: your passport or national ID card, proof of long-term residence in France, marriage or birth certificates if your family are to be included, proof of address in France, proof of your pension and your S1 Form.
What if I am an early retiree?
Early retirees are no longer eligible for the S1 Form. After three months of living in France early retirees can apply for state healthcare cover in the same way as retirees and those working in France but you will probably need some sort of private health insurance to cover you in those initial three months.
The other option is to work part-time in France or set up a business, such as a B&B or gîte, so you are paying social security contributions on your earnings and therefore be automatically covered by the French healthcare system.