Medical Care in France for Foreigners vs Residents | All You Need to Know

Medical Care in France for foreigners – Before you can receive any medical treatment, other than in an emergency, you will need to register with a doctor.  There are two types of general practitioners in France;

– A doctor may work entirely within the state scheme and keep to the agreed fees set by the government

– A doctor who keeps to the agreement but also sets his fees freely

In both cases, the reimbursement made by the CPAM (local sickness insurance fund) will be based on the state scheme’s tariff but not on any extra additional fees above the set level that may be charged.

Medical Care in France for Foreigners

You will need to pay for your treatment at the end of each appointment and, if you have one, you can pay the doctor with your Carte Vitale.  However, if you do not have a Carte Vitale your doctor will issue you with a brown receipt form ‘Feuille de Soins’ which you can then send off to CPAM to receive a refund of what you have paid.  You will receive reimbursement through the social security system at the standard rate of 70% less a 1 € surcharge paid by you.

The doctor may issue a prescription which can be taken to a Pharmacist to fulfill.  Your doctor will also need to issue you with a referral in order for you to see many other medical specialists.  A referral is not needed to see a dentist, ophthalmologist or gynecologist.

You are able to register at any doctor and are not restricted by location.


Dentists – Medical Care in France for foreigners

Most dentists work within the same system as doctors so general dental treatment is reimbursed in the same way, i.e., patients will receive reimbursement from the social security system at 70% of official rates and your voluntary health insurance policy will pay for the balance.  However, there is no 1 € surcharge as is the case with doctors’ treatments.

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You are able to register at any dentist and are not restricted by location.

Opticians and Ophthalmologists – Medical Care in France for foreigners

The eye care system in France is different from that in the UK in that Opticians are not part of the French health service and so do not offer eye tests.  Instead, Opticians are more of a retail unit and can sell you a pair of spectacles.  However, unless you have a medical prescription from an ophthalmologist, you will not be eligible for any financial assistance from the Social Security system for the cost of the glasses or lenses.

In France, you will need to see an Ophthalmologist to receive a medical eye examination and to get a medical prescription for glasses.  The set fee for an Ophthalmologist appointment in 2009 was 40 € of which 15 € will be reimbursed by the social security system.

Please note that in many areas there seems to be a shortage of Ophthalmologists in France and so it is advisable to book an appointment far in advance of when you are actually likely to need an appointment.  It is illegal to buy spectacles on the internet in France, however, many UK based opticians do offer this service and may be preferable if you already have a prescription and need glasses urgently.

Hospitals – Medical Care in France for foreigners

There are both public and private hospitals in France;

  • Private hospitals (cliniques privees) are usually similar to a public hospital with only a few truly operating outside of the public sector.
  • Public hospitals which may be a general or local hospital (CH), a regional hospital (CHR), a specialist hospital (CHS) or one linked to a university (CHU).

French hospitals are often different from many UK hospitals and patients will usually find clean, spacious, modern facilities with private rooms and facilities.

The admission procedures to the hospital will depend on your status;


Medical Care in France for Foreigners Vs Residents

  • Resident 

If you are admitted to the hospital you will need to provide your Carte Vitale, the notice or ‘attestation’ you will have received confirming your entitlement to health care, and proof of your voluntary or private insurance policy.

  • Visitor

If you are admitted to hospital when you are visiting France you will need to produce either your European Health Insurance Card or private health insurance policy.

  • No Health Insurance

If you have no health insurance, and it is an emergency, you will still receive treatment.  However, you will be responsible for the costs and will be expected to pay before you are discharged.

If it is not an emergency and you do not have health insurance you will most likely be asked to pay before you receive the treatment.

Pharmacies – Medical Care in France for foreigners

In France, you will only be able to get prescription drugs from a pharmacy.  Over-the-counter medicines are also only available in pharmacies and you will not find them for sale in supermarkets as you would in many other countries.

The rate of reimbursement for prescriptions ranges from 15% up to 100% and will depend on the type of drug and how essential it is.  Medicines not considered essential will get the lowest rate of reimbursement with very few drugs reimbursed in full.

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Most chemists now use computerized systems that are connected to the state system and the main voluntary or private insurance funds.  This means that once you have registered with your local chemist you should only need to provide your Carte Vitale to the pharmacist and will not need to pay anything else.

If your chemist does not have a computerized system or you do not have a Carte Vitale you will need to pay up front.  You can get a brown receipt form ‘Feuille de Soins’ from the pharmacist who will attach sticky labels from your medicine box on to the form.  You will then need to send it off to CPAM to receive a refund of what you have paid.

The level of reimbursement which you can expect for each medicine will be indicated by the color of the detachable slip that is attached to each prescription;

  • Orange – 15%
  • Blue – 35%
  • White – 65%
  • White/Barred – 100%

 France Medical Care

Visiting France – Everyone needs an EHIC card and make sure you’re covered with travel insurance

You’ll need a Carte Vitale or EHIC card to claim back medical costs, and you won’t be reimbursed in full.

Whether you are visiting Poitou Charentes or living here, we’ve put together this brief guide to help you understand your entitlements to healthcare and the key steps you need to take to make sure you are covered while you are here.

 France Medical Care – Key points for everyone

  • The cost of any treatment you receive must be paid upfront, regardless of whether or not you can claim it back.
  • A typical consultation fee with a GP will cost you between 22 and 25 euros.
  • Key telephone numbers to know in case of an emergency are:
Medical Emergency – SAMU 15
Police – Gendarme 17
Fire – Pompiers 18
Sea or Lake Rescue 1616
Europe-wide Emergency Number 112

Medical care in France for Foreigners/ Tourists

Key points if you are visiting

  • Before you leave the UK, obtain the new plastic European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which replaces the old E111 and E128.
  • Both children and adults will need one of these cards each.
  • The EHIC entitles you to the same treatment as a resident of the country you are visiting.
  • Take out appropriate health cover, as full costs of treatment are not normally reimbursed in France, and any cost required to repatriate you will not be covered.

Key points for residents in France

  • The cost of treatment is rarely fully covered, and if you are covered by the French System, you will normally only recoup around 75% of what you have paid out, depending on the treatment.
  • You will need a Carte Vitale to enable you to claim anything from the French healthcare system.
  • In order to get a Carte Vitale (whatever the circumstances) you will need to take proof of residence, copy of passport, birth certificate, and marriage certificate to the Caisse Primaire Assurance Maladie (CPAM) along with the relevant form.
  • Residents will need to choose and register with a primary doctor (Medecin Traitant), and this will help ensure the maximum refunds are obtained.
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Residents – What are you entitled to and how do you get it

Circumstances Health covered by UK Form req’d? Where do I get it? Do I need to renew it? Insurance top-up needed? Entitlement notes
Officially Retired UK National 1 Carte Vitale E121 DWP No Advisable Spouse also covered, and some treatments 100% reimbursed
Under retirement age and not working Private Insurance None N/A N/A N/A Will become eligible to join at retirement age, or after 5 years residency
Under retirement age and not working – NICS paid in the UK for the previous 2 years Carte Vitale E106 HMRC No Advisable Can join for 2 benefit years maximum (benefit year starts 1st Sat in Jan)
Working and being paid in the UK, family live in France Carte Vitale (Family only) E109 HMRC Every year Advisable UK worker covered by EHIC whilst in France and NHS while in the UK, Family covered by a reciprocal agreement between the UK and France.
Working and being paid in France Carte Vitale N/A N/A N/A Advisable Covered by paying contributions either deducted from source (employed) or paid annually (self-employed)
Unemployed living in France Unemployed people who were unemployed in the UK may be entitled to limited benefits, but depends on individual circumstances – Register with ASSEDIC and ANPE.


1 The category also includes people in receipt of Long Term Incapacity Benefit and Severe Disability Allowance

Medical Care in France for Foreigners vs Residents FAQs

Q1: What is the quality of medical care in France?

A: France is renowned for its high-quality healthcare system, offering excellent medical care. The country has state-of-the-art facilities, well-trained medical professionals, and a strong emphasis on patient safety.

Q2: Are foreigners entitled to medical care in France?

A: Yes, foreigners residing legally in France are entitled to the same medical care as residents under the French healthcare system. They have access to public healthcare services and can enroll in the state health insurance program.

Q3: Do foreigners need private health insurance to receive medical care in France?

A: Foreigners from certain countries, including European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) citizens, may be eligible for coverage under the French public healthcare system. Others will need to purchase private health insurance to avail of medical services in France.

Q4: How can foreigners access medical care in France?

A: Foreigners can visit a general practitioner (GP) or specialist directly when needed, just like residents. They can also go to emergency departments in hospitals or clinics for immediate medical attention.

Q5: Is there a language barrier for non-French speakers seeking medical care in France?

A: While many healthcare professionals in France can communicate in English, it is recommended to have a basic understanding of French or have an interpreter with you during medical consultations to avoid misunderstandings.

Q6: How does the reimbursement process work for foreigners?

A: Under the French healthcare system, both residents and foreigners are generally required to pay upfront for medical services. They can then submit their receipts or invoices with relevant forms to their health insurance provider for reimbursement, which is usually a percentage of the costs incurred.

Q7: Are there any differences in the cost of medical care for foreigners and residents?

A: Generally, foreigners without access to the French public healthcare system may face higher medical expenses and need to pay for private health insurance. However, once enrolled in the state health insurance program, foreigners will be entitled to the same reimbursements as residents.

Q8: Can foreigners receive emergency medical care without insurance?

A: In emergency situations, all individuals in France, regardless of their insurance status, have the right to receive necessary medical treatment. However, it is still advisable to have appropriate insurance coverage for non-emergency healthcare needs.

Q9: Are there any additional resources available for foreigners seeking medical care in France?

A: Yes, there are various resources available to assist foreigners in navigating the French healthcare system. These include dedicated support centers, English-speaking doctors’ databases, and guidance from international organizations such as embassies or consulates.

Q10: What should foreigners do before seeking medical care in France?

A: It is advisable for foreigners to research and understand the healthcare system in France, determine their eligibility for public healthcare or the need for private insurance, and have the necessary documents ready, such as a valid passport and residency permit.

Remember to consult official sources such as government websites and healthcare providers for the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding medical care in France.

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