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How the French healthcare system works

By Jean
Reading Time: 4 minutes
French healthcare system

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The French healthcare system, lauded as one of the best worldwide, offers extensive coverage, high-quality care, and accessibility. For international students moving to France, understanding the nuances of this system is essential for a smooth transition and ensuring your health needs are met efficiently.

This guide provides a deep dive into the French healthcare system, offering insights and practical advice for students.

Understanding the French Healthcare System

France’s healthcare system operates on a state-funded model, providing comprehensive coverage to its residents through a combination of public health insurance and optional private insurance. The system is funded by the government through taxes and social security contributions, ensuring that healthcare services are accessible to everyone at a fraction of the actual cost.

Coverage and Eligibility

Expats living and working in France are eligible for the same healthcare benefits as French citizens, provided they contribute to the social security system. This eligibility extends to dependents, ensuring families have access to healthcare services. Upon registration, you’ll receive a health insurance card, the “Carte Vitale,” which you present at medical appointments for direct billing to the health insurance scheme.

Enrolling in the French Healthcare System

The first step for students is to register with the French social security system to obtain health insurance coverage. This process involves submitting various documents, including proof of residence, proof of study, and identity. Once registered, you will be integrated into the health insurance scheme, allowing you access to the French healthcare system’s benefits.

Find out more about the enrollment process and FAQs here:

French healthcare system

Public vs. Private Insurance

While the public insurance scheme covers a significant portion of healthcare costs, many residents opt for supplementary health insurance, so-called “mutuelle.” These private policies cover the co-payment portion not covered by the public system, including dental and eye care, which are often only partially covered.

Discover our partner travel and health insurance here:

Accessing Healthcare Services

With your Carte Vitale, accessing healthcare services in France is straightforward. You can visit general practitioners or specialists without needing a referral. However, for reimbursement purposes, it’s advisable to register with a general practitioner as your primary healthcare provider. Pharmacies also play a crucial role in the healthcare system, offering medication dispensation and basic medical advice.

Hospitals and Emergency Services

Hospitals in France feature a comprehensive range of specialities, catering to virtually every aspect of medical care. From cardiology and neurology to orthopedics and pediatrics, the country’s hospitals are equipped to provide specialized treatment across a broad spectrum.

To navigate the healthcare system more effectively, especially understanding the specific specialities and medical terminologies used in French hospitals, refer to our article on essential medical terms every student should know before visiting a hospital in France:

French healthcare system

Mental Health Services

France recognizes the importance of mental health as a critical component of overall well-being. The French healthcare system provides access to mental health professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, and counsellors, available in hospitals, clinics, and private practices.

Find out how to find mental health support in France here:

Pharmacy System

French pharmacies are readily available and serve as the first point of contact for minor health issues. They offer over-the-counter medications and fulfil prescriptions, with pharmacists providing valuable health advice.

See what you can buy at a pharmacy in France:

Medication and Treatment

The process of obtaining medication and treatment in France is pretty straightforward. Pharmacies in France are well-stocked and pharmacists are highly knowledgeable and can offer advice on medication usage and potential side effects.

For those who require medication that they have been using in their home country, it’s essential to understand the regulations around bringing medication to France. Please refer to our informative article for more information:

French healthcare system

Costs and Reimbursements

Access to the French healthcare system is free for students, ensuring they receive necessary medical attention without the burden of direct costs.

Healthcare costs in France are shared between the state and the patient, with the public healthcare system reimbursing a significant portion of medical expenses. The exact reimbursement rate depends on the type of service, with general consultations typically reimbursed at 70%. Supplementary insurance (mutuelle) can cover the remaining costs.

Have Questions? We’re Here to Help!

Navigating the French healthcare system can be complex, especially if you’re new to the country. Whether it’s questions about health insurance, finding a doctor, mental health support, or bringing medication from abroad, our team is ready to assist you.

Contact us today, and let’s ensure you have all the information you need for a healthy and fulfilling experience in France.

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