5 things you should know about healthcare in France

5 things to know about the French heathcare system © sturti - Getty Images

5 things to know about the French heathcare system © sturti - Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images

The French healthcare system is rated as one of the best in the world but it can be confusing to expats unfamilier with it so here are 5 things you should know before you start using the heathcare system in France

Take a look at any world rankings of healthcare systems and you’ll find that France invariably features high up on the list. In terms of both quality and availability of care, it certainly has a lot to recommend it.

While all of this is certainly reassuring for anyone considering a move across the Channel, a first experience of any unfamiliar healthcare system can be daunting – especially if you’re used to the simplicity of the NHS.

Fortunately, International Health Insurance providers, Cigna Global have plenty of experience in helping expats make sense of their new healthcare landscape. As such, courtesy of Cigna, here are five features of the French healthcare system that all UK expats ought to take on board.

1. You need to register to access healthcare

As someone living and working in France, you are entitled to receive state healthcare cover on the same basis as the locals. Retirees from the UK are also entitled to this, – as long as you have paid your NI contributions in the UK and are in receipt of a state pension.

To access this cover, it is necessary to register with one of the state insurance companies – the most popular being the Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM). If you work, you will need to register to pay into the French social security system. Retirees will need to produce a certificate of entitlement known as an S1 Form. This is best obtained before you make the move to France and you can follow the current procedure for this via the NHS guide to moving abroad.

2. It is a contribution-based system

Once you are registered, you will be presented with a Carte Vitale – something that’s essential for accessing treatment as a French resident. You present it each time you attend a clinic, hospital or visit a health professional.

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Now here’s the first major difference between the UK and France: you pay upfront for treatment received. Ultimately, you will be reimbursed for the treatment - but here’s the second big difference: you won’t be reimbursed for the full amount (typically, you’ll get around 70-80% back).

3. You can top up coverage through a mutuelle

A mutuelle is a form of top-up insurance, designed to cover some, or all, of your healthcare costs that are not paid for by the state. If you are employed by a private company, your employer must now provide you with cover under what is known as a mutuelle collective. For those not covered, there’s the option of taking out a mutuelle individuelle. Note that mutuelle cover may or may not cover your family too – it all depends on the extent of cover under the policy.

4. There’s a tariff system in place

For medical specialists, there is a system of official fee rates for treatments and consultations in place. These fees form the basis on which patients are reimbursed for treatments. If you consult a specialist whose fees are higher than the standard rates, this essentially means that you will be faced with a higher personal contribution – unless your insurance provisions cover the shortfall.

Dental treatment is one area where there tends to be a significant divergence between official rates and what treatment providers actually charge. You’ll find that although the cost of check-ups and routine treatment tends to be very reasonable, the bill for significant dental work can be hundreds or possibly thousands of euros more than what’s recoverable. IMPI (International Private Medical Insurance) from Cigna Global offer International Vision and Dental as one of their option benefits, this covers a wide range of preventative, routine and major dental treatments.

5. IPMI can take the hassle and worry out of negotiating the French healthcare system

International Private Medical Insurance (IPMI) can help you handle the ‘upfront payment’ aspect and the ‘personal contribution’ element of the French healthcare system in a straightforward way.

Signing up to an IPMI provider, such as Cigna Global, means that your medical treatment provider can be reimbursed directly by that insurer. The flexible nature of the policies available means that you can tailor them to your needs – including adding dental cover. It also means bypassing the need to deal with France’s complicated mutuelle market.

To find out more about how IPMI can help you get the very best out of the French healthcare system and for a quote, visit Cigna Global today.