Anyone who has lived in France for a while understands just how lucky we are to have access to the French healthcare system. The system is undoubtedly one of the best in the world and is often regarded as one of the best examples of a Universal healthcare system.
So how does it work? Does everyone have access to it? And most importantly, is it free?
The French healthcare system is a mix of public and private coverage, meaning that in France, people pay a certain amount of money towards their medical care. When you work in France, money is taken directly from your salary for obligatory social security contributions. Don’t worry, it’s not a lot and it’s the minimum everyone has to pay (in 2016 it was around 8% for employees). Your employer then pays money towards your healthcare (around 13%) and the government covers most of the rest.
For example, if you go and see a doctor (your registered general practitioner), the French healthcare system will cover about 70% of the costs. The remaining 30% must be paid by the patient, or as in most cases, by the patient’s private insurance (AKA top-up insurance). A lot of people in France have private insurance through their job which covers the remaining 30%. I personally have my social security and private insurance (a “mutuelle”) that is deducted from my salary every month. In a lot of jobs it’s actually an obligation to have the mutuelle but most people don’t mind as it helps cover any extra medical costs. Of course, there are good and bad private healthcare insurances, so if you’re getting one for yourself, or your work insurance is not obligatory, do your research and find the best possible deal. Luckily, my private health insurance is very good so I pay either nothing or next to nothing when I go to visit my doctor.
Everyone has access to the French healthcare system as long as they are either employed in France or have been living in France for at least three months. Once you’ve been here for at least three months, you can officially apply for the carte vitale, the prettiest and shiniest green card you’ll ever see! If you are employed, your employer will first register you with French social security and then you can register for French healthcare. Your employer MIGHT organise your healthcare registration but it’s not a legal requirement (and in my experience they never do it for you) so make sure you check that your local CPAM (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie) office has been contacted. You can find your local CPAM office via the Ameli site by clicking on “Vous êtes assuré” and then “Votre caisse” where you can enter your post code! However, if you are a retired EU national, you have to obtain an S1 form to have access to healthcare in France which is specifically for people living within the EEA (European Economic Area).
The process takes time and there are a lot of documents to provide but when you have your health card in your hand, I promise, it’s totally worth overcoming the hurdles!
So there you have it, a short but sweet overview of how the French healthcare system works. Of course, this is a very brief description, but it should give you the general idea of how things work in France. Rest assured, France has a fantastic system which a number of countries dream of having so if you’re lucky enough to live in France, know that the system will take care of your needs!
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