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Health Service

France - Health Service

Made up of a network of public and private hospitals, doctors, and other medical service providers, the French health care system is seen as one of the best health care systems in the world. In fact, the World Health Organisation has named it the best performing system in the world, based on the availability and organisation of health care providers.

Priding itself on caring for every French resident, regardless of their age, income, or status, the majority of healthcare costs are covered by the state via a public health insurance scheme. Boasting high expenditure, high patient success rates, and low mortality rates, it’s perhaps not surprising that the system almost always scores a high rate of customer satisfaction.

The system is funded by donations from the state health system (Sécurité Sociale), the central government, and contributions from the patient. Anyone employed in France has around 6-7% of their income deducted to pay for health care, in order to cover compulsory health insurance to one of three non-profit agencies – the largest of these funds covers 84% of the population and the other two split the remaining 12% between them. The insurance schemes work by reimbursing a proportion of the fee paid to the patient’s doctor or dentist.

If you are not a resident in France but have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you can access state healthcare in the same way as any French Citizen and don’t need to be registered with a GP in order to do so. In order to use the EHIC in France, you need to ensure that your doctor or dentist is conventionné – that is, they fully adhere to the national agreement between practitioners and the national social security system and either charges the official rates, or is free to set their own rates.

The EHIC does not apply to expats residing in France on a long-term basis, however, who must join the national state health insurance system, the CMU scheme. To join the scheme, you must present yourself at the local CPAM office (Caisse Primaire Assurance Maladie), who will require a number of documents including proof of identity and proof of long-term residence.

In the event of a medical emergency whilst you are in France, you should visit the local Accident and Emergency (A&E/ER) (les urgencies). Alternatively, you can call 112 or 15 for SAMU (Service d’Aide Médicale Urgente), however you should note that a doctor will need to confirm that you are genuinely in need of an ambulance and, if it is decided that it is not necessary, you will be expected to cover the cost yourself.

Finding yourself unwell in a new country can be worrying, especially if you aren’t confident in the local language. The majority of French doctors and emergency services staff speak reasonably fluent English, however there is no guarantee of this. If you are not confident enough to discuss your medical issues in French, it is best to check when you book an appointment, or take a trusted French speaker along with you.

As in the UK, smoking is banned in the majority of public areas in France, including all enclosed public spaces such as offices, schools, government buildings, bars, and restaurants. Having introduced a smoking ban in February 2007, there is now a minimum fine of 500 Euros for anyone caught breaking the new law.

Although the French are by no means suffering from the same level of obesity as many other countries, it has been an increasing health issue for the country over recent years.

Of course, mental health is just as important as physical health and, if you move to France, it’s important that you are able to access counselling services in your native language. There are a number of organisations set up specifically to provide support for English speaking expats – the details of which can be found below.

Useful Resources:

Centre des Liasons Européennes et Internationales de Sécurité Sociale

Counselling in France

The Counseling Center
Monday - Friday
23, Avenue George V, 75008 Paris
Tel: 01 47 23 61 13

International Counseling Services (ICS)
65, quai d'Orsay, 75007 Paris
Tel: 01 45 50 26 49

Paris Therapy Services

S.O.S. Help
Tel: 01 46 21 46 46 (15.00 to 22.00)

Read more about this country

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.