Getting health insurance in France


Updated on Mar 29 • 4 minute read

One of the main advantages of living in France is benefiting from a world-class healthcare system. In fact, France has the 7th best healthcare system in the world. And under public Protection Maladie Universelle (PUMA), France ensures every French resident, including expats, has access to affordable, top-notch health care with public health insurance.

But there’re many things you should know about French health insurance, including what’re the requirements, what documents you need, and what expenses it covers. So in this guide, we’ve explained everything you need to know about French healthcare and health insurance.

Who has the right to healthcare in France?

All residents of France, including expats, have access to the public healthcare system in France. The French government finances the healthcare system through national social security contributions. But to access this healthcare system inexpensively, you need health insurance.

Public health insurance in France

Expats who plan to live in France for more than 6 months are eligible for public health insurance after 3 months of residence. What type of public health insurance will cover your medical expenses depends on your situation.

  1. You’re covered by public national health insurance if you’re:
  • Employee
  • Freelancer
  • Business owner
  1. You’re covered by the Student Social Security (Sécurité Sociale Etudiante) if you’re a full-time Non-EU student under the age of 28 in French institutions for more than 3 months.

  2. EU students can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to cover their medical expenses during their study program.

How much is public health insurance in France?

All working residents in France, including freelancers, expats, and business owners, contribute about 8% of their monthly salaries to national healthcare. In exchange, health insurance covers a significant proportion of medical expenses, but not all of it.

People who earn below the threshold don’t contribute to healthcare and receive completely free public-funded healthcare (CMU-complémentaire)

Currently, you’ll qualify for public-funded healthcare if you are:

  1. Single-person with a monthly salary of €8,951
  2. 2 person family with a monthly salary of €13,426
  3. 3 person family with a monthly salary of €16,112
  4. 4 person family with a monthly salary of €18,129

What medical expenses does public healthcare cover?

  • Free emergency care
  • 70% to 80% reimbursement for general practitioner visits
  • 80% reimbursement for hospital visits
  • 100% reimbursement for medical expenses in case of major illness
  • Basic dental care such as consultations, cavities, tooth extractions, and dental prostheses
  • Up to 100% of prescribed medication cost
  • When referred by GP, reimbursement for specialist care
  • Free birth control methods (pills, IUDs, contraceptive patches, and other methods) for women aged between 18-25
  • Free preventative care: check-ups every 2 year
  • 100% reimbursed for free pair of spectacles every 2 years for adults and children every year

Steps to apply for public health insurance

  • If you’re employed in France, your company will register you for public health insurance on your behalf. You just have to present the necessary documents.
  • Non-EU students will automatically be enrolled in Student Social Security (Sécurité Sociale Etudiante).
  • If you’re a freelancer, you must register yourself from Régime Social des Indépendants (RSI).
  • Business owners have to register through the local department level of the national health insurance administration, CPAM (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie).

To register, you’ll need:

  • Application form
  • Copy and original of your passport
  • Copy and original of your residence permit
  • Evidence of income (salary, statement from employer)
  • Birth certificate and marriage certificate (if applicable) translated into French at the notary
  • Proof of 3-month residence in France (utility bill dating back to 3 months)

Once you gather all these documents, you can send them by post or present them in person at your local CPAM. Once CPAM receives your application, they’ll decide whether you’re eligible for public health insurance. If you earn below the threshold, then you’ll qualify for free public-funded healthcare (CMU-complémentaire).

Then, you must request your health insurance card (carte vitale).

While waiting for your health insurance card, you can ask for a temporary insurance card (attestation de couverture sociale) to cover your medical expenses. Receiving the health card will take a while, so we advise you to apply for a temporary card.

Updating the Carte Vitale

Your health insurance card carte vitale includes all the necessary information about you, such as your registered GP, details of your employer, your medical background, and if you’ve got private insurance. You must make sure the information is always up to date. You can update your carte vitale at any time by putting it in the green box at CPAM offices, pharmacies, and clinics.

Private health insurance in France

Expats must reside in France for 3 months before accessing public health insurance. So with private health insurance (mutuelle), you can avoid unnecessary expensive medical bills during this period.

Private health insurance also covers the remaining medical costs that public health insurance doesn’t. You can also complement your public health insurance by getting private health insurance (mutuelle) to cover expenses that public health insurance doesn’t, such as visits to psychologists and osteopaths.

How much is private health insurance in France?

Basic private health insurance costs about €40 monthly in France. However, this price will change depending on any add-ons, for instance, extra dental care (e.g., teeth whitening), age, and pre-existing medical conditions. Also, some private health insurance providers offer basic family packages for €90.

Expat-friendly private health insurance providers in France

Like most organizations in France, most health insurance companies in France communicate in French. But, some expat-friendly private health insurance companies use English. Here’s the some of them:

  1. Allianz Care
  2. Cigna Global
  3. GeoBlue Xplorer

Useful medical terms in French

  • Health Centre: centre de santé
  • Doctor: médécin
  • Health insurance: assurance santé
  • Parmacy: pharmacie
  • Prescription: prescription
  • Fever: fièvre
  • Flu: grippe
  • Headache: mal de tête
  • Stomach aches: maux d'estomac
  • Heart attack: crise cardiaque
  • I feel sick: Je me sens malade
  • General Practitioner: médecin généraliste
  • Call a doctor: Appelez un _docteur
  • I need something for pain: J'ai besoin d'un antidouleur
  • I feel sick: J'ai mal au cœur
  • First aid: premiers secours

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