Health care in France

Health care in France
Despite their meat-and-cream-rich diet augmented by alcohol and cigarettes, the French have been living much longer in recent years.


Life expectancy now averages 84 years for women and 77 for men. In the past 10 years the number of people living over the age of 100 has doubled, with 15,459people reaching the three-digit mark.

The low cost of health insurance and the superb quality of care meant that France romped to victory in the health category of International Living’s Quality of Life Index 2011. And the World Health Organization shares our view, naming France number one in their world health report.

They say France provides the best overall health care system in the world. And for those who are paying into the French Social Security System, it’s a lot cheaper than taking out private health care plans (which North American retirees will have to do). Private medical insurance is mandatory for non-E.U. citizens wishing to take up residence in France.

Once you move to France, you may be able to transfer your health care plan to a French provider, or even to one of the many British companies that specialize in providing coverage for individual expatriates. This may prove cheaper: Costs depend on age and medical history, but if you’re in good health, monthly premiums average $125.

Private medical insurance generally covers hospital treatment, but under some plans you must fund the cost of doctor’s visits yourself. Others will reimburse around 75% of doctor’s fees. As with household insurance, the consular section of the U.S. Embassy can provide you with a list of English-speaking insurance agencies offering health coverage.

You could also join the Association of Americans Resident Overseas (website: and buy into their group plan.


The cost of a doctor’s care in France depends on whether you elect to see a médecin non conventionné–that is, a private doctor–or a médecin conventionné, a doctor who works within the French Social Security system.

Note that, in France, doctors do make house calls. The cost is a little more than for an office visit and more still for a house call at night, on the weekends, or on a public holiday.

Also, in France, you have to pay the doctor in his office as soon as your visit is finished, rather than when he sends you a bill.

If you’re visiting the country and fall ill, you can ask for a doctor recommendation at the tourist office, a pharmacy, or at your hotel. Most professionals speak English.

If all else fails, there’s always the embassy or consulate. Unless you’re really off the beaten track, the U.S. and Canadian embassies can provide you with contact numbers for English-speaking doctors in any particular area..

Hospital Treatment

The conditions for reimbursement for medical expenses vary from hospital to hospital. Unless it’s an emergency, you should check into the reimbursement conditions before you are signed in for hospital treatment.

For instance, your health care insurance policy may cover you for treatment only in a public hospital, not in a private clinic.

The French social security system covers treatment in public hospitals and clinics with conventionné status. You’ll be reimbursed 80% for treatment the first month and 100% thereafter. All surgical expenses are reimbursed 100%.

Regardless of treatment and surgery costs, you’ll also be charged a non-reimbursable rate of approximately US$9.50 per day for bed occupancy. At private clinics with non-conventionné status, you’ll be able to reclaim only about 10% of your medical expenses.