Healthcare in France

Last updated: November 20, 2019

The healthcare system in France is highly praised for its high quality and the level of  accessibility it offers to patients. It was ranked number one in the world by The World Health Organization (WHO) in the year 2000 and to this day  it is regarded as one of the best overall healthcare systems worldwide. Read on to find out more!

Types of Healthcare in France

By law all residents in France must have some form of health insurance, whether private or a state health insurance scheme. The ‘main’ Healthcare system in France is a state controlled social security system known as L’assurance Maladie or sécurité-sociale (Sécu). Aside from that, there is a voluntary health insurance system known as assurance complémentaire provided through mutual organisations and private insurers.

Since January of 2016, the Protection Universelle Maladie (PUMA) has replaced the previous Couverture Universelle Maladie (CMU) foreigners in France. However, The CMU-Complémentaire, which is for people on a low income who pay no fees, remains in place. In order to be eligible for coverage under the state health care system (PUMA); you need to be either employed or living in France on a stable and an ongoing basis for more than three months.

Healthcare in France

Registration for the French healthcare system

French State healthcare is funded by 3 sources. Healthcare in France is partly funded by contributions of its Residents to the social security system, by the government and by fees charged at point of treatment. Contributions to the social security system are deducted from salaries as “general taxes“.

Registration with l’assurance maladie when in France is essential. This will not only give you access to Health service in France, but it is also a way to obtain reimbursement of costs spent on healthcare. With proof of employment (income), identity and legal residence as well as documents such as a birth and/or Marriage certificates, you need to go to the Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM) to register. You will have to ask your employer whether they will take care of these formalities for you, or whether you have to do it on your own.

Health care in France


What is the Carte Vitale

After your registration with the CPAM, you can get the national insurance card called the Carte Vitale. This card facilitates your reimbursements and avoids you having to pay upfront for certain healthcare services. This card will need to be presented at each healthcare appointment, whether it is at the doctors or at a pharmacy. Getting this card can take some time, so, you can request for an “attestation de couverture sociale” until you get the card. Registration with l’assurance maladie does not automatically guarantee you a carte vitale, so, remember to ask for it and follow up on it until you get it.  

As previously mentioned, when you are registered with l’assurance maladie you can get reimbursements for costs spent on Healthcare. However, it is important to know that not all costs will be fully reimbursed. For that reason, you can choose to get extra coverage with the top up health insurance (l’assurance complémentaire santé) often organised by a ‘mutual society’ mutuelle or private health insurers. 

What Next?

Whilst France has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, this is in some way to be expected since France allocates around 10% of its gross national income to its healthcare system. This is one of the highest rates for healthcare in the world! If you want a more general overview of what you need to know for moving to France, check out our other articles online!