The French healthcare system has been consistently ranked one of the top five in the world by the World Health Organisation. Those who are employed in France or pay into French social security, as well as anyone who has been a permanent resident for over three consecutive months may benefit from an extensive network of medical facilities.
The French healthcare system is considered to be efficient and of an exceptionally high standard, with the government investing almost 12% of the country’s GDP in healthcare and subsidies. In most cases, patients pay up front for services and are reimbursed usually up to 70% of the cost, except in the case of the lowest income bracket, which is completely subsidised. The national French health insurance card is called the carte vitale, which can be used to pay for the majority of the costs. Doctors may also issue patients with a separate bill for the treatment they have received, which can be used for insurance claims. State healthcare in France can be complex with varying allowances and contributions depending on an individual’s situation. Many people subscribe (either personally or via their employer) to a top-up health insurance France called a mutuelle, which covers the “difference” not reimbursed by the state. Anyone not part of French social security will need to provide a European Health Insurance card if they are an EU citizen, or proof of private health cover. Anyone without private health insurance in France will be liable to pay all medical bills.
The majority of practitioners working in healthcare in France sign an agreement with the Sécurité Sociale, which regulates any fees they may charge for certain treatments. It is important to be aware of this and be clear about charges for procedures or treatments, as anything charged out with this agreement will not be reimbursed by the French healthcare system (though it may be covered by private insurance in some cases). Occasionally, anaesthetists and surgeons in private clinics will charge a fee for their services, known as dépassements d’honoraires, which are not covered by social security. Also in the event you are hospitalised, there is a fixed daily fee (forfait journalier) of 20 euros per day after the first 24 hour period.
In the event of a medical crisis, anyone can access emergency healthcare in France at any time, regardless of their status or healthcare coverage. It is also worth noting that in France the fire brigade (Pompiers) operate as first responders. It is not uncommon to phone the Pompiers in a medical emergency.
French state hospitals are well equipped with access to state-of-the-art facilities. Hospitals are grouped by region (groupe hospitalier), with 3 distinct categories: general hospitals (centre hospitalier), local hospitals (centre hospitalier regional) and university hospitals (centre hospitalier universitaire). There are also different walk in clinics and centres for social care, which are usually semi-private. Private hospitals are called cliniques and often specialise in their field to a higher degree than state hospitals. Many private clinics have relationships with state hospitals, sharing their resources if necessary across the French healthcare system.
Within the French healthcare system, is customary for French families to have a family doctor whom they consult first for all non-emergency medical ailments. In order to be referred to other specialists (including gynaecological or dental treatment). Every person over the age of 16 should sign up directly with a GP (médecin traitant).
For all over-the-counter medicines and prescriptions (une ordonnance), go to a pharmacy (pharmacie), as medicine is not stocked in supermarkets. If you present your prescription and health card (Carte Vitale or a valid European Health Insurance Card), you won’t need to pay the full up front cost, and if you have a mutuelle (top-up insurance), the whole up front cost will be covered. Without a carte Vitale or proof of health insurance in France, you will be given a form to fill in requesting reimbursement from the relevant body. Certain medicine is covered 100% by the state.
Outside of normal opening hours, you should go to a night-time pharmacy (pharmacie de garde). The location of the nearest pharmacie de garde will always be listed on the door of any chemist that is closed, or alternatively, phone 32 37 and enter your area postcode for details of available chemists.
Most Dentists in France operate in private practices, but the majority of the most routine procedures are reimbursed up to 70% by social security under the French healthcare system.