A Guide to the French Healthcare System for English-speaking Expats


When moving to a new country, understanding and navigating the local healthcare system is of paramount importance to safeguard your well-being and ensure that you and your family receive the necessary care when required. This is particularly true for English-speaking expats relocating to France, a country known for its high-quality healthcare services but also for its complex administration processes. Consequently, it is crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of the French healthcare system, including registration procedures, access to care, costs, and insurance options, to make the most of the resources available and secure peace of mind in your new home.

In this guide, we will delve into the various aspects of the French healthcare system, providing you with essential insights on topics such as the structure and organisation of the healthcare system, registering for healthcare, accessing services, understanding costs, and obtaining supplementary health insurance. Moreover, we will demonstrate the benefits and importance of partnering with French Connections HCB, your one-stop administration partner in France, to support you in managing healthcare-related administration and achieving a smooth and hassle-free transition to life in this beautiful and vibrant country.

By acquiring the knowledge and resources detailed in this guide, you can effectively navigate the complexities of the French healthcare system, ensuring that you and your family have access to high-quality healthcare services while maintaining compliance with local regulations. With a thorough understanding of the French healthcare system and the expert assistance of French Connections HCB, you can confidently embrace the joys and challenges of life in France, knowing that your healthcare needs are well taken care of. So, let’s begin our exploration of the intricacies of the French healthcare system for English-speaking expats, setting the stage for a healthy and fulfilling experience in your new home.

Overview of the French Healthcare System

Structure and Organisation

The French healthcare system is universally recognised for its excellent standard of care and is often ranked as one of the best in the world. Its comprehensive healthcare model is primarily funded by the national social security system, which is financed through employer and employee social contributions, as well as indirect taxes. The system ensures that all legal residents have access to medical services, hospital care, and prescription medication, with a strong focus on prevention.

Quality and Accessibility of Care

France offers top-quality healthcare, with modern facilities and a strong network of general practitioners (GPs) and specialist doctors. Both public and private healthcare providers are available, but it is worth noting that the social security system reimburses costs at the public sector rate, regardless of the provider chosen. Therefore, choosing a private healthcare provider may result in higher out-of-pocket expenses. It is also important to mention that public hospitals have emergency departments, while many private hospitals do not.

Registering for Healthcare in France

Establishing Residency

The first step in accessing the French healthcare system is to establish residency in France. To qualify as a legal resident, individuals from non-EU countries must hold a valid visa, obtained prior to their arrival. EU citizens are typically considered residents after living in France for three months.

Registering with the Social Security System (Sécurité Sociale)

Once residency is established, expats must register with the French social security system, known as Sécurité Sociale or Assurance Maladie. This will facilitate access to healthcare services and reimbursement for medical expenses. Registration can be done at the local Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM) office or, for employees, through their workplace. Required documents may include proof of identity, residence, income, and an employment contract or self-employment verification.

Obtaining a Carte Vitale

After registering with the social security system, you will receive a Carte Vitale, a green card that contains your personal healthcare information, including your social security number. This card is necessary for accessing healthcare services and receiving reimbursements, so it must be presented at all appointments and consultations.

Accessing Healthcare Services in France

Primary Care: GPs, Dentists, and Optometrists

Primary care providers, including GPs, dentists, and optometrists, form the first point of contact for healthcare services in France. It is advisable to register with a local GP, known as a médecin traitant, who will be responsible for your ongoing care, referrals, and coordinating specialist treatment if needed. Both public and private healthcare providers can be found, with the latter often providing faster access to services and greater flexibility in appointment times.

Specialist Care and Referrals

Specialists in France typically require a referral from a primary care provider, such as a GP. In cases where a patient seeks specialist care without a referral, reimbursement rates may be lower, increasing out-of-pocket costs. Specialist visits usually require co-payments, with the exact amount dependent on the specialist and the nature of the treatment.

Hospitals and Emergency Care

France has an extensive network of hospitals, both public and private, which offer a range of services, from outpatient consultations to complex surgical procedures. In emergencies, patients can attend public hospital emergency departments, while non-urgent medical services can be accessed by appointment at either public or private facilities.

Pharmacies and Prescription Medication

Pharmacies are ubiquitous in France and can be identified by a green cross displayed outside the premises. Medication is dispensed upon presentation of a valid prescription, and the social security system provides partial or full reimbursement for many prescription medications.

Understanding the Costs of Healthcare in France

Co-payments and Reimbursements

The French healthcare system requires co-payments for most medical services, with reimbursement rates varying depending on the nature of the treatment and the patient’s coverage. Typically, the social security system reimburses between 70% and 100% of the official rate for medical treatments, with the remaining balance to be paid by the patient or covered by supplementary health insurance (mutuelle).

Additional Costs and Fees

Some healthcare providers may charge additional fees beyond the official rate, known as dépassements d’honoraires. These fees are not reimbursed by the social security system and must be paid by the patient or covered by their supplementary health insurance.

Obtaining Supplementary Health Insurance: Mutuelle

Purpose and Benefits

A mutuelle is supplementary health insurance that covers the costs not reimbursed by the social security system, such as co-payments and additional fees. While a mutuelle is not legally required, many individuals opt for this additional coverage to reduce out-of-pocket expenses.

Comparing and Selecting a Plan

There is a wide range of mutuelle providers and plans available in France, each offering different levels of coverage, services, and costs. It is essential to carefully compare options and select a plan that best suits your healthcare needs and budget.

Tips for Navigating the French Healthcare System as an English-speaking Expat

1. Register with the social security system and obtain a Carte Vitale as soon as possible.

2. Choose a local GP (médecin traitant) to coordinate your healthcare.

3. Consider obtaining supplementary health insurance (mutuelle) for better coverage.

4. Keep all medical reimbursement paperwork organised for tax purposes.

How French Connections HCB Can Assist with Healthcare-related Administration

Navigating the French healthcare system can be complex, especially for English-speaking expats. French Connections HCB provides invaluable support in managing healthcare-related administration, including registering with the social security system, obtaining your Carte Vitale, and finding a suitable GP or specialist. By utilising the expert services of French Connections HCB, you can focus on your health and well-being while enjoying a smooth transition to life in France.


Understanding and navigating the French healthcare system is essential for English-speaking expats to ensure access to high-quality healthcare services and maintain compliance with local regulations. This guide offers comprehensive insights into the French healthcare system and highlights the invaluable support provided by French Connections HCB in managing healthcare-related administration. 

With the assistance of French Connections HCB, you can confidently face the challenges and rewards of life in France, knowing that your healthcare needs are well taken care of. French Connections HCB is your comprehensive administrative support in France. Whether you’re relocating, starting a new venture, or processing your healthcare application, we are here to assist you with all the necessary tasks and ensure a seamless transition upon your arrival.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Sign up to our free newsletter for regular admin tips, advice and updates.

Copyright © 2023 French Connections HCB | Pôle entreprise Labordeneuve – 32300 Idrac-Respaillès – SAS with a capital of 10 000€ | SIRET N° 88970854100020 |  Privacy Policy

Scroll to Top
A Place in the Sun Live

Manchester Central 1st - 3rd March

See us on stand FR30 - Click below to get tickets or book a live consultation with our Moving to France specialist Richard Hammond!