The public healthcare system in France is largely funded by workers, who contribute a portion of their income towards the social security system known as Securite Sociale. There are three main public healthcare insurance funds in France that you can pay into, but the country’s main healthcare system/fund, and arguably the one that most expats should and will join, is the CMU scheme (Couverture Maladie Universelle) – which covers around 84 per cent of the population. However, it is essential to note that expats who move to France with no intention to work or who have taken early retirement will not be eligible to join the public healthcare system in France until they have either lived in the country for five years or reached retirement age. In this instance, an expat will need to seek private insurance (there is no great divide in terms of private or public healthcare in France – in terms of quality or waiting times).
To register for public healthcare insurance in France you will need to present proof of employment, proof of self-employment or the necessary retirement-related forms (E-106 or E-121), along with your passport and your proof of residence at your local social security office – known as CPAM or Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie. Most healthcare in France will come at a price – emergency procedures and treatments aside – and you will have to pay for any treatment or consultations at the time you receive it. However, if you subscribe to Securite Sociale then you will be reimbursed around 70 per cent on most costs – typically around ten days after you have paid the initial cost. Generally, the sicker you are the less you pay, and those with chronic illnesses, like cancer, will find that they will be reimbursed for all their treatment, including drugs.
It is worth noting that it is totally up to you when it comes to which doctor or medical practice you choose to visit – be they private or public, so this may help you find an English speaking doctor or practice if you don’t speak French. However, while many GPs, hospitals and clinics adhere to an agreed price of treatment, which is set by the Ministry of Health and known as Tarif de Convention, some do not – these are known as non-conventione and they can charge what they like. It is essential that you take this into account when looking for healthcare treatment; all medical practices will need to clearly display their prices.
While private healthcare in France offers very little advantage over the public system, the large majority of the French population do also have some form of private health insurance, often to cover the 30 per cent shortfall in the reimbursement given by the public insurance funds. This private insurance is usually supplied by employers so it is well worth finding out if the company you plan to work for offer this as it can be used to cover the remaining portion of any medical bills you run up. You can, of course, choose to use a private health insurance company when you arrive to live in the country. There are a number of different companies available, some of which will offer special expat services, but due to the high standard of public healthcare in France, private care is not as sought after as it is in many other countries.