Accessing Healthcare in France

Many families dream of spending a week or two just exploring the many fantastic destinations of France. From the Louvre, Notre Dame, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris to the St. Gatien Cathedral in Tours, or even the famed beaches of the French Riviera in Nice, there’s always something amazing for everyone. And while dreaming of the perfect French holiday getaway can be a real pleasure in itself, you don’t have to dream about free access to world-class French healthcare anymore since this is now an absolute certainty with the European Health Insurance Card.

The primary benefit of this EHI Card is that, like its predecessor the E111, it entitles you to exactly the same health care services that French nationals and residents are entitled to from their government. These services can be obtained at the same cost as any other French or even absolutely free of charge.

Understand that EHIC only covers necessary treatments to enable you to continue on your journey of exploring the many wonders of France. In fact, this is the same premise throughout all the participating countries of the European Health Insurance system. As such, it does not cover treatments that were obtained from practitioners in the private sector. It is therefore crucial that, before you ask for any treatments, you have to ascertain you are receiving treatment from a French state healthcare provider. The French call this conventionne and they typically fall under 2 categories:

  • Practitioners in Secteur 1 will only charge the rate as mandated by the social security system.
  • Practitioners in Secteur 2 will charge, on top of the standard social security rate, an additional fee.

In both categories of French public physicians, it is expected that you will be paying up front for any treatment that you receive. The French physician will be furnishing you with an official treatment form as well as medication prescriptions. Keep these as you will need these when you claim for a reimbursement at a designated EHIC refund center in France. This entitles you to reimburse 70 percent of the cost that you have paid.

You can then bring the medication prescription to a licensed state-owned pharmacy and present your EHIC. The cost of the medication is typically printed on the official treatment form. Again, you will be paying for the medications upfront but you’ll need to keep the receipts as these entitles you to a refund. Depending on the type of medication that was prescribed to you, you can obtain a refund of anywhere between 15 percent and 100 percent. As long as the medication prescribed to you is in the official list of reimbursable medications, then you can safely reimburse these later.

If there’s a medical emergency in your family, you may go directly to an emergency medical facility called les urgences. If you require an ambulance, you can call 112 and tell them you an ambulance service. Many of the French paramedics and emergency medical practitioners can speak English but it is always best that you know exactly where you need to be picked up by the ambulance. Normally, French doctors will ascertain that you are indeed in need of ambulance services. Otherwise, they will charge you for the cost of the ambulance service.

Getting hospitalized in France is not cheap especially if you get admitted to a private hospital. That’s why it’s always ideal to seek a public hospital. With your EHIC card, you will only be paying around 18 Euros per day excluding the cost of any treatments that you will be receiving. Many of these treatments are provided free although there are some that are provided to you at a reduced cost. Typically, these types of treatment will require paying for them at 20 percent of the original cost which is still acceptably lower than the full amount.

The European Health Insurance Card should not be considered a replacement of a travel insurance or even a personal health policy as there are clearly limitations to the EHIC coverage. Additionally, make sure you don’t go to France for the sole purpose of obtaining treatments or even giving birth because EHIC will not apply in these cases. Longstanding or chronic conditions that require routine care are nonetheless covered, provided care has been coordinated in advance. The same is true with routine obstetric care.

Before you head to France make sure your EHIC is still valid. You can avail of MyEHIC’s renewal services for a more efficient renewal of your EU card. This way your health will be protected under the state health services of the French.