Healthcare in France


how does the healthcare system work in France ? Is it efficient ?

What are the main differences between public and private sectors?

Is it recommended to purchase private health insurance in France?

Thanks in advance for sharing your experience !


Hello Julien,
If you have a carte de sejour and a job (full or part time) you can go to the Securite Social and get a ss number and apply for a health card which you can use in most of France to get 70% off of doctor's visits, hospitalization and medicine (90% in Alsace and Lorraine).  That means you have to pay a bit.  You can get a private mutual to pay the rest if you want.  I don't see a reason to get a private plan unless maybe you have special needs and need to spend more personal time talking with doctors, or want to get quicker appointments. I've been to a few private hospitals and I don't notice much difference, but then again I'm not an expert.

Thank merquiades for your help :)


If you get a part time job you need to make sure you work at least 120 hours in 3 months.

You could also look at the Autoentrepreneur scheme which does not have this requirement, but you are limited to a gross income of around 30,000 € - and no deductions are allowed for expenses. Take off around 22% for tax + social security charges and you are left with 25,000€. Running a forum like this would be possible for the AE scheme


In order to help expats and soon-to-be expats, we would like to invite you to share your experience on this topic, with updated info on the healthcare system.

Thank you in advance,

Julie Team

What is the Autoentrepreneur scheme?  How does it work?   What does and individual have to do?

We are moving to France (Haute Savoie) in October 2015.  My wife and I are both retired but I have a home based business that I will continue. Of course we expect to pay taxes in France based on this income (approx. $ 30,000 US)

Can anyone lead us in the right direction?

I am a practising specialist physician ( USA, Cuba, Cambodia, Malaysia among the experiences).
I categorically say that the health care in France is the best that i have encountered.
My daughter was born at the british hosptial and at the end of a seven day stay including room and board for me, the final bill was ZERO.. also during the pregnancy of the mother, specialist consultations cost 8 euros each and the medications etc were absolutely free.
Also a relative of mine, underwent cancer therapy for breast cancer at Villejuif and the care can only be said to be first class.
I cannot praise the medical care and the system in France enough.

Dr Sudah Yehuda Shaheb  MD MSc MS  FRAI

For those of you who are new to France, and I have written about this before, you need to be careful and go in with your eyes open.

Do not make assumptions and talk to several people who work in the healthcare system here and who have experience of the UK systems. Most importantly, do not assume that there is a 100% reciprocal arrangement with the UK and be sure to sort out the forms BEFORE you arrive. Many expats have told me that the healthcare system in France is better than the UK. Sadly, I don't agree. Here, we have, essentially, a PRIVATE healthcare system in so far as individuals pay for it, not the tax payer.

Why does this make a difference? Healthcare here is more akin to the American system is so far as a) you pay for everything you use including ambulances and bandages, and b) the private system makes doctors and specialists like loan sharks.

Why is this bad? Private healthcare professionals need to make money not just a living. So if you present with a simple cold after 7 days, you will most often be asked to take an xray (200 euros) plus be given antibiotics. Now, I have work in the pharmaceutical industry, but even a half educated person knows that you should not take antibiotics for a common cold. If it turns to pneumonia which is rare except in older people (55+ year olds), then that's something else. The more educated healthcare professionals know this too, but like I said, they want to make money.

Secondly, private healthcare systems usually have serious gaps especially outside major connurbations. Unlike an NHS hospital which must cater to the general populace, a private healthcare system (like a private transport system) is designed to maximise reveunue, not cater to the periphery of the population.

Indeed, a 'free' healthcare system - where healthcare professionals are not responsible for any form of financial burden - should, theoretically, be more likely to proliferate bad practice and useless (read: money-spinning) patient testing. However, in my experience, in the UK, testing is on a 'need' only based on specific indications or patient circumstances. Punters are not referred because they're a potential source of income.

Lastly, the gaps in the reciprocal arrangement between the NHS and the French system will be noticed far more by the 55+ year olds especially if you haven't paid into the system before you arrive, e.g. if you come here to retire. If you do this, you need to factor in the cost of say, cancer medication which will be substantial if the type of cancer you have is terminal and/or regular trips back to the UK.

1. Cost of medication. You will find that something as simple as paracetomol is only available through pharmacies who charge 5 times more expensive than Boots and around 10 times more than a drug store in Australia.
2. A friend of mine went to a dermatologist with a simple (topical) skin complaint. She came out 200 euros lighter from the pharmacy and also had to pay 80 euros for the consultation. Even a complicated skin complaint wouldn't cost the NHS anywhere near this much on a first visit.....

I am a patient of the French system and can say hand on heart that I have had it better, and been better supported by my long term health team, than any of the patients I know with the same health condition around the world.

In my experience, delays to see consultants are shorter, results are supplied to me in person, I can choose my team despite moving across the country and, since my case is unfortunately considered a long term affliction, any health visit, test or act related to it costs me nothing. This last is reviewed every 4 years to see if the same level of care is required, but overall I give the French system 5*.

Now, of course if you go to the Doc with a cold you leave with a prescription as long as your arm, and if you have any leanings towards natural solutions for health issues you are on your own but as above, I remain a grateful fan.

I also am a fan of the french healthcare system. I have had medical treatment in several countries, including the UK, but here has been overall the best in speed and quality of treatment. No healthcare system is perfect. It is a good idea to have a top up mutuel if you are a permanent resident. I lived in the UK for 20 years, have been here for 16 and will not be leaving  :D  .

New topic