Access to quality healthcare has always been a priority in France and all residents benefit from the national system. The entire working population contributes to a healthcare fund - the best well-known being the Sécurité Sociale. Certain professions or people working under specific regimes like independent workers (Régime Social des Independents) or agricultural workers (MSA) contribute to funds that are dedicated to them. The system offers an initial level of cover for routine healthcare, paramedical care, pharmaceutical expenses, medical equipment and hospitalization. While the cost of public healthcare in France is reasonable, these services are often completed by private health insurance, known as a "mutuelle" to guarantee total reimbursement of all healthcare expenses.
Visiting a doctor in France
Your treating doctor is the key to your health needs (beyond emergencies) in France. You have to register the name of your treating doctor with a health insurance fund (Caisse d'assurance maladie) and if you need to see a specialist, you have to have a referral from your treating doctor to get reimbursed.
General practitioners are all treating doctors in France and can refer you to a specialist if necessary. Always keep the referral note because without it, you will not be fully reimbursed. Most doctors receive patients during the week from Monday to Friday, 8pm-12am and 2pm-6pm. The majority of doctors offer consultations by appointment. You should count between €25 and €30 for a consultation with a GP by appointment - although prices can be higher - particularly in Paris -according to the type and time of visit (home, emergency, at the weekend...).
Some specialists offer consultations in the private and public sector. The average cost of a consultation is €43 but prices vary greatly because in the private sector, specialists are free to set their own fees. If you think you may need to consult a private specialist, we strongly recommend you take out private health insurance.
Being admitted to hospital in France
All French hospitals, both public and private, are open to everyone. The Sécurité Sociale reimburses up to 80% of the cost for medical hospitalization and up to 100% for surgery. The rest is paid for by your private health insurance or "mutuelle". In case of emergency: dial 15 for the SAMU (Service d'Aide Médicale Urgente).
Buying medication in France
Some medication can be purchased without a prescription but will not be reimbursed by the social security system or your private health insurance. Also, certain prescribed drugs are not always fully reimbursed. A franchise of 50 centimes is applied to each packet of medicine bought.
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Rachel lives in Togo and has been with MSH since 2002. After routine surgery, she fell into a coma that lasted 2 months. Her hospitalization cost more than 200,000 euros - but it was all covered by MSH, without her having to get involved. Thanks to the reactivity of the team and their smooth handling of the situation, Rachel's family were able to avoid any extra stress - as was Rachel when she woke up.
Laure and Robert moved to Singapore in 2014 for work - but they ended up starting a family there too! She told MSH that she was pregnant and was amazed by all the support she got. First she received a practical guide on pregnancy (what to do at each stage, medical exams etc.) and then a member of the team called her to explain all her guarantees personally and advise her on the best place to give birth. The day her daughter was born, a gift pack arrived with a growth chart and a baby toy, with all good wishes from MSH. And now there's another one on the way...
Petra was very worried about the surgery she'd been prescribed following an accident at home. Before making her decision, she wanted a second opinion. Thanks to her private health insurance, which included the Second Medical Opinion guarantee, she quickly saw another doctor and got all the answers to her questions. The second doctor agreed that surgery was necessary and Petra went to hospital feeling reassured and confident.