Healthcare is one of the most fundamental factors to sort out when you move abroad. Fortunately, if you are moving to France, the healthcare system is fairly straightforward to navigate. From making sure you have coverage to picking up your prescription, InterNations has compiled an expat guide to help with your medical needs when you relocate.
With France’s healthcare system operating under a hybrid public and private insurance model, it is easy enough to get medical coverage in France. The comparatively cheap price tag is a welcome surprise for many expats. Though France is said to have one of the best healthcare systems worldwide, residents can expect to pay relatively little for their treatment. About 70% of the costs are reimbursed by social security — in case of serious or life-threatening illnesses, it is even 100%. For anything not covered by the state’s social security plan, top-up insurance takes care of (most of) the rest.
Look out for the neon-green cross on the French high street! That’s the sign for a French pharmacy, and there are plenty of them. Staffed with highly trained pharmacists, these little shops are more than just retailers. Pharmacists can offer advice for prescription medicine and minor ailments. For more serious complaints, check in with your médecin traitant. Your ‘treating doctor’ keeps track of your medical history and can refer you to a specialist if necessary. In case of emergency, however, you should simply call the European emergency number (112) or French ambulance services (15). They will take you to the nearest accident & emergency department at one of France’s 2,600 hospitals. If you have time to prepare for your stay in hospital, you can even pick and choose a clinic. Yearly league tables rate the quality of hospitals in France. There is just one drawback, though: like English-speaking doctors, hospitals with bilingual or multilingual staff are usually located in major cities, especially Paris.
Most expat women in France do not only register with a médecin traitant, but choose a gynecologist as well. They don’t need a referral for this. Routine gynecological care is covered by the public healthcare system. It includes annual Pap smear exams for all women, breast exams for women over 30, and mammography screening for women aged 50 to 74. Contraception (e.g. the birth control pill) is widely available, including emergency contraception. It is also legal to terminate a pregnancy within the first twelve weeks. However, France also offers plenty of prenatal care to expecting mothers. Up to nine prenatal exams, as well as giving birth at a public hospital, are covered by health insurance in France. After delivery, the mother is entitled to a postnatal check-up exam, physiotherapy (if necessary), and several weeks of paid maternal leave.