Health Care in France

Health Care in France


France Offers the Best Healthcare on Earth

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 85 years for women and 78.5 for men. In the past 10 years the number of people living over the age of 100 has doubled, with 24,214 people reaching the three-digit mark.

The low cost of health insurance and the superb quality of care means that France consistently receives high scores in the healthcare category of International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index. And the World Health Organization shares our view.

For those who are paying into the French Social Security System, healthcare is a lot cheaper than taking out private health care plans. Costs vary according to your income, household, and multiple other factors. It’s roughly 8% of your net income above a minimum threshold set by the state. Under the state system, you’re covered for 70% of the state-set rates for doctor’s visits and 80% of set rates for hospital visits. Most people then have private insurance (called a mutuelle) to cover any shortfall.

Who is eligible for the French national health system?

In general, you can become eligible in one of two ways: if you are legally employed in France and pay into the French social security system, you may join. Alternatively, if you’ve been a legal permanent resident of France for five years, you become eligible to apply.

As having medical insurance is a mandatory requisite of living legally in France, you must have private insurance if you’re not eligible for the French system.  Fortunately, reasonably priced medical plans for expatriates are available. For example, take a look at Association of American Residents Overseas ( to assess their varied comprehensive plans. There are also a number of British companies that specialize in providing healthcare for expatriates.


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. Accordingly, fees can range between $40 to $100 per visit. Note that in France, you can arrange for a doctor to make a house call through a private service called SOS médecins. These visits usually cost a very reasonable $60 to $80, depending on the time or day of the week they’re called. In France, you 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 healthcare 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% and certain major illnesses, such as cancer, are reimbursed at 100%. Regardless of treatment and surgery costs, you’ll also be charged a non-reimbursable rate of approximately $20 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 unless you have a mutuelle to cover the difference.

*Prices as of 2015

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