Living in France?
Healthcare in France
You’re in Good Hands
The French healthcare system has been ranked the best in the world several times in the World Health Organization annual rankings and is consistently named in the top five. Both French citizens and expats benefit from a comprehensive network of hospitals, doctors, dentists, and other medical facilities. As of 2014, there were more than 200,000 medical doctors working for state hospitals and private organizations and looking after the health of all French residents. The country spends an above-average amount on healthcare (almost 12% of its GDP). The patients themselves spend comparatively one of the lowest amounts on healthcare, most of it being subsidized by the government.
Different Types of Hospitals
France is a world-leader in medical research, and state hospitals are well equipped with modern facilities and treatment methods. All hospitals are clustered into groups by region (groupe hospitalier), and lists can be found online — all public hospitals in Paris, for example, can be found on the website of the Assistance Publique for Paris. They are then categorized into general hospitals (centre hospitalier), local hospitals (centre hospitalier regional), and university hospitals (centre hospitalier universitaire).
Dentists usually operate in private practices, but most routine procedures are 70% covered by social security. There are also a number of walk-in clinics for mental health issues (Centres Médico-Psychologiques) and social work (Centres Médico-Psycho-Pédagogiques), which are often half public, half private.
Go to the Doctor, or Let the Doctor Come to You
Private hospitals are called cliniques and often specialize to a higher degree than state hospitals. Some private clinics cooperate with state hospitals, so their specialized resources may be used to support public hospitals if necessary.
It is customary for French families to have a family doctor whom they consult first for all common ailments.
The French universal healthcare system (known as Puma) covers the majority of medical costs for any individuals who are working in France or have been resident for at least three months — although it is still possible to be covered before this if you have worked a certain number of hours or paid a certain amount in contributions. After three months of working, you can also receive daily cash benefits if you have to take medical leave.
You pay by carte vitale, which is your health insurance card for the public healthcare system, and which will cover the majority of the costs. If you do not have a carte vitale, every doctor can issue you with a bill for the treatment you have received, which you can then use for insurance claims.
Most doctors sign an agreement with Sécurité Sociale (social security in France) which regulates the fees they can charge for certain treatments. This is important when choosing a doctor: anything charged above this limit will not be reimbursed by Sécurité Sociale (although it might be by a supplementary health insurance provider).
You’re Well Taken Care of as a Mother-to-Be
First things first: A minimum of eight weeks of maternity leave is compulsory for every mother.
Sixteen weeks of maternity leave (congé maternité) are optional, usually six weeks prenatal and ten weeks postnatal. For a third child, this amount increases to 26 weeks — eight weeks prenatal and 18 weeks postnatal. It also increases if the woman is expecting twins or triplets. The additional weeks of congé maternité are unpaid, but families are eligible for benefits during this period. Men receive a paternity leave period of 11 consecutive days for the birth of one child, or 18 for a multiple birth.
Mothers-to-be who have been with their employer for more than a year are free to take up to two years out for bringing up their child (congé parental d’éducation). After this period they must be re-employed in the same position or a similar job. Under Puma, all medical costs during the pregnancy are covered, even if they are not directly related.
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