How does the French healthcare system work?

The French healthcare system is a public system financed by social security contributions and taxes. It ensures access to healthcare for all citizens and is based on two systems: the mandatory Social Security scheme which provides the majority of the healthcare cost reimbursement (70%) and the supplemental scheme (private and mutual insurance) which supplements the reimbursements. Everyone is free to subscribe to a supplementary scheme, but it is not mandatory. Since January 2016, all employers are required to offer their employees a supplementary group healthcare option.

Joining the French Social Security System

If you are a French citizen, you will need to transfer your records when you move.
If you are a foreign national, you can benefit from Social Security provided that you contribute. This is the case if you work legally in France or if you are registered at the Pôle Emploi job centre.

  • If you are European, you can be covered either by the social security scheme of your home country or the French scheme.
  • If you are from a non-member State of the European Economic Area, you need to be in France legally and provide proof when asked.

The registration process

To benefit from Social Security, you must register to obtain a Social Security number and, if necessary, add your family members as beneficiaries. This process can be done by your employer, who sends a declaration of employment within 8 days of hiring you, or by you (if you are unemployed). In the latter case, you can contact:

  • the Caisse d'Assurance Maladie (CPAM) of your place of residence, if you are employed or unemployed.
  • the Mutualité Sociale Agricole (MSA) if you are a farm employee or owner.
  • the Régime Social des Indépendants (RSI) if you are self-employed (craftsman, shop owner, private practice).

What if you're a student?

Foreign students living in France are not all subject to the same rules, depending on their nationality and age:
If you are European and under age 28, you are not required to join the student social security scheme. A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will offer you the same coverage as in your home country while you are studying in France.
If you are from a non-member state of the European Economic Area or older than 28 you must join the student social security scheme and pay the annual fees.

Take out supplementary health insurance

In France, you can, if you want, take out supplemental health insurance with a "private" or "mutual" company that will supplement your social security reimbursements.
Foreign workers can take out mutual or private insurance based on their status and their home country. For example it is easier for citizens of the European Union to choose a mutual insurance company in France. It's best to contact these organisations to find out what type of coverage they offer. Your mutual insurance can also be paid by your company.

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