Oct 012007

Health care in France is broadly comparable to any industrialised economy, incorporating both a public and private health care system. Funding for health is sourced from a combination of social security levies on income for all salary and wage earners, and self employed artisans, along with supplemental insurance premiums to private insurance providers. Government health policy is similar to the UK in terms of promoting healthier lifestyles, and combating major diseases.

The French Health Care System

French residents are free to choose the doctor or specialist they wish to consult according to their own preferences, with many choosing doctors surgeries outside of their immediate ‘catchment’ area. It is important to note however, registering with a primary doctor is advisable if you wish to be reimbursed for medical expenses from your local office of the Caisse Primaire Assurance Maladie (CPAM), or from your private insurance provider.

Costs of health care in France are high for any person not registered with CPAM, or not contributing to private health insurance, consequently, it is not possible to gain residency without proof of cover. In choosing your primary doctor, it is always advisable to select one of  your local conventionné aligned GPs. These are doctors who have agreed to charge a nationally recognised , and uniform rate set by CPAM.

Hospitals are funded both publicly and privately, as in the UK, with patient choice of hospital being a significant difference. Public hospitals are every bit as good as their private counterparts, and surprisingly, work reasonably well together. Waiting lists for surgery in France are non-existent, a marked contrast with the UK, and comfort levels in hospitals are very different, with most wards having fewer beds.

Paying For Health Care in France

British citizens living in France or considering a move to France need to be aware of some major changes to the cost of health care in France. The new president, Nicholas Sarkozy, has embarked on a major course of reforms in public sector spending, the costs of which have become unsustainable with fewer taxpayers than retirees.

The practical and immediate effect is that French residents who aren’t contributing to social security  and are under the age of 65 will no longer be entitled to reimbursement for medical treatment, and therefore also not entitled to a French health care card, the ‘carte d’assurance maladie vitale’, forcing them to seek out private health insurance with potentially prohibitive premiums.

All indications are that EU expatriates working in France or legally self-employed are not affected, although some ominous reports suggest there is some confusion on this point in some quarters. Similarly, ex-pats with current E121, or valid E106 forms issued in their home country will not be affected.

Prescriptions in France

Getting your prescriptions filled in France is as easily accomplished as in the UK, however, French law will only permit prescriptions issued by a French doctor to be completed. Refill prescriptions issued by a UK doctor will therefore need to be taken to a pharmacy in the UK prior to arriving in France.

If you are planning to settle in France and have a pre-existing medical condition, you should obtain copies of all medical records and bring these with you to France. Some French doctors do have good English skills, so translating your most important medical findings might not be necessary but be prepared for this eventuality.

The cost of filling prescriptions is paid in full at the point of collection, either at your local pharmacy or hospital pharmacy. If you are entitled to a refund be sure to ask the pharmacist for a ‘feuille de soins’ which details the treatment given to you and which needs to be sent to either your insurer or your local office of CPAM. …

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