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The French healthcare system is widely considered to be one of the best in the world. The state health insurance system is generally accessible to expats living in France, although there are still circumstances which make private health insurance advisable. Dentistry and private hospital care are usually only available to those with private health insurance, and as such it is highly recommended that all expats take out some form of supplementary health cover.
People living or working in France are generally expected to have some form health insurance. Anyone who pays into the French social security system is entitled to state health insurance, and this is made possible through a tax of about 8 percent of a person’s net income, above a minimum threshold.
To access state healthcare in France, expats will need to register to use the state’s social security system. Many employers will do this on behalf of their foreign employees, but it is ultimately the responsibility of the individual to ensure that it is done properly.
European citizens will be able to use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in France to attain healthcare at the same cost as locals. Expats from countries that are not in the EU or EEA will only be able to use state healthcare after they have started paying into the French state system.
State insurance does not usually cover costs from certain specialists, including psychologists, or alternative treatments like chiropractic treatment, osteopathy, homeopathy or Chinese herbal medicine. Some private insurance providers may partially cover these treatments.
In the public healthcare system, expats may have to pay upfront and then claim a refund from the state depending on the medication or services they are accessing. State health insurance will usually cover the majority of the costs, but expats may be liable to pay a percentage of most treatments. It is thus advisable that expats planning to use the public healthcare system in France still invest in some form of private, top-up insurance to bridge this gap.
Despite the country’s high quality of public healthcare, private top-up health insurance is taken out by most expats in France. This will usually cover the balance of state healthcare costs or the administrative complexities of treatment, eliminating the need for expats to put in any money for co-pay.
Expats who are not from the EEA or EU and do not pay into the French public healthcare system will need to take out comprehensive private healthcare insurance for the duration of their stay in the country.
Pharmacies and medication
Pharmacies in France are plentiful. In cities like Paris and Nice expats will also find 24-hour and late-night pharmacies. Over-the-counter medication in France can only be sold in pharmacies, and as such finding medical supplies in supermarkets can be difficult.
Expats should not have trouble bringing prescription medication into France for personal use. It is always advisable to travel with an original prescription and the generic names of any medication, as brand names tend to vary from country to country.
Emergency services and important numbers
Emergency services in France are efficient and reliable. Most emergency response services in France are managed by the Service d'Aide Médicale d'Urgence (SAMU), a government organisation. Expats should not have trouble finding an ambulance in the major urban areas, but rural areas may have slower response times.
English-speaking expats can make use of the general European Union emergency number, 112. The local emergency number for SAMU ambulances is 15. Expats should also take note of the number for their home country’s embassy or consulate for cases of emergency.
Expat Protect plans have been designed for expats and local residents in France, Benelux or Monaco. They can be purchased as a top-up health insurance or purchased as full cover.