Healthcare in France for English-Speaking Expats


Moving to another country comes with its fair share of challenges, and healthcare is undoubtedly one of the most crucial aspects to consider when relocating. For English-speaking expats moving to or already living in France, adapting to the local healthcare system and ensuring their healthcare needs are met is essential for a smooth transition. In France, the healthcare system offers a comprehensive network of services, but it can initially seem overwhelming to navigate. Understanding the ins and outs of the French healthcare system will not only ensure that you have access to the best medical care but will also help you better integrate into French society.

In this comprehensive guide, our aim is to provide English-speaking expats with a thorough understanding of the French healthcare system, focusing on accessing healthcare services, the role of public health insurance (PUMA) as well as private health insurance options. We will also delve into healthcare costs, reimbursement rates, and tips for navigating the French healthcare system. Additionally, we will emphasise the benefits of partnering with French Connections HCB, your one-stop administration partner in France, for guidance and support with healthcare-related administration tasks.

Armed with the right knowledge and expertise, your transition to life in France will be more manageable, ensuring your peace of mind and, most importantly, your health and well-being. Embracing the French healthcare system means taking advantage of a world-class network of medical services and professionals. Let’s explore the key aspects of healthcare in France that you need to be aware of in order to fully take advantage of the benefits available to English-speaking expats.

An Overview of the French Healthcare System

Public Healthcare: Protection Universelle Maladie (PUMA)

One of the cornerstones of healthcare in France is the public healthcare system known as Protection Universelle Maladie (PUMA). PUMA provides comprehensive health coverage to French residents, encompassing a wide range of medical services. As an English-speaking expat, you can access PUMA if you have been a resident of France for more than three months. Registering for PUMA will involve submitting an application to your local health insurance fund, known as Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM).

Once registered, you will receive a personal health insurance card called Carte Vitale, which should be presented during visits to doctors, hospitals, and when obtaining prescription medication. It is essential to register for PUMA as soon as possible to ensure that your healthcare needs are seamlessly addressed.

Private Healthcare and Supplementary Insurance (Mutuelle)

Whilst PUMA offers an extensive range of healthcare coverage, it does not always cover 100% of the costs associated with medical treatments and services. As a result, many French residents, including expats, choose to obtain supplementary private health insurance known as mutuelle. This additional insurance helps cover the out-of-pocket expenses not reimbursed by PUMA, such as dental, optical and specialist treatments.

It is essential to thoroughly research and compare various mutuelle providers to determine the best coverage plan that suits your needs and budget. French Connections HCB can provide assistance and guidance in selecting the right private health insurance for you and your family.

Accessing Medical Services in France

General Practitioners

Primary medical care in France is provided by general practitioners or médecins généralistes. As an expat, finding a GP who speaks English is crucial to ensure clear communication and comprehension of your medical needs. A list of English-speaking doctors can often be obtained from your local CPAM office or consulate.

It is important to note that in France, you must declare a “médecin traitant” (treating doctor) by completing a form and submitting it to your health insurance fund. This doctor will be your first point of contact for medical consultations and will refer you to specialists if needed. This process ensures better coordination of your healthcare and maximises reimbursements from your health insurance.

Specialists and Hospital Care

Access to specialists and hospital care in France often requires a referral from your GP. However, certain specialists, such as gynaecologists and ophthalmologists, can be consulted without referrals. It is crucial to understand that specialists often have higher consultation fees and that reimbursement rates may vary depending on your health insurance coverage.

Dental, Optical, and other Ancillary Services

Services such as dental and optical care are also covered by the French healthcare system, albeit often at a lower reimbursement rate. Investing in supplementary private health insurance or a mutuelle can help bridge the gap and minimise out-of-pocket expenses for these services.

Healthcare Costs and Reimbursement Rates

Doctor Visits and Prescription Medications

In France, most doctors operate on a fee-for-service basis, with patients paying upfront and receiving reimbursements later from their health insurance. The standard fee for GP visits is €25, with specialists’ fees ranging from €30 to €60 or more, depending on the practitioner. Prescription medication costs are often reimbursed at a rate of around 65% to 100% through PUMA, with any outstanding expenses covered by your mutuelle based on your selected plan.

Hospitalisation and Specialist Treatments

Hospitalisation and specialist treatments are subject to many variables, with costs varying depending on factors such as public or private hospitalisation, the type of treatment, and length of stay. It is vital to understand the specific reimbursement rates associated with your healthcare plan and to secure adequate supplementary coverage to minimise your out-of-pocket expenses.

Tips for English-speaking Expats Navigating the French Healthcare System

1. Ensure that you register for PUMA as soon as you become eligible.

2. Research and select a suitable mutuelle to cover costs not reimbursed by PUMA.

3. Declare your médecin traitant to ensure well-coordinated healthcare and maximise reimbursements.

4. Seek help from French Connections HCB for assistance in navigating healthcare-related administration tasks.

How French Connections HCB Can Assist with Healthcare Administration

Managing healthcare administration tasks can be challenging for English-speaking expats unfamiliar with the French healthcare system. French Connections HCB can provide guidance and support in dealing with administrative requirements, such as registering for PUMA, obtaining a mutuelle, or finding English-speaking healthcare providers. With the assistance of French Connections HCB, navigating French healthcare will be a seamless experience.


Adapting to the French healthcare system is essential for English-speaking expats to ensure a successful and healthy life in France. By following the guidance provided in this comprehensive guide, you will be well-prepared to access the medical care you need. Remember, French Connections HCB is available to offer expert advice and support on all aspects of healthcare application and administration in France, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience during your time in this beautiful country.

2 thoughts on “Healthcare in France for English-Speaking Expats”

  1. srephen williams

    I have 3/4 hospital consultant appointments 2 are for my wife who is a non-driver
    I have been granted “protocol de soins”which was issued because of extreme sciatical pain when driving.
    can you advise on how to transport her to her visits
    basic state pension is our only income
    thank you

  2. srephen williams

    good day
    my wife and I have lived here for just over 6 years
    I have a consultant appointment and my wife has 2 consultant trips
    my wife has no driving license but I do
    I have a protocole de soins because severe sciatic pain which means I
    can only drive short trips,which leaves me the problem of getting her to see the doctor
    our only income is basic state pension

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