Healthcare in France


The French health care system is regarded as one of the best in the world. It is comprised of a fully-integrated network of public and private hospitals as well as of highly competitive doctors, nurses and medical service providers.

Dubbed twice by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a global leader, the French healthcare system is funded by the central government, self-employed individuals and by obligatory contributions deducted from the salaries of employees. Sécurité Sociale (Social Security contribution) of workers is paid at around eight percent while the employers pay 13% of the salary towards health costs.

Citizens and expats are covered by this public health care scheme regardless of their age, status or income thus, making medical assistance highly accessible to almost everyone in France. It is also worth noting that by the end of 2017, selected medical personnel and doctors will no longer be allowed to charge upfront payments instead, they will be paid directly by the health insurers or by the French government.

French Healthcare System for Foreign Nationals

Expats from EU member states are automatically entitled to free basic health care. By law, everyone in France must be covered by either a public or private health insurance, and in 2016, France started to implement a new French healthcare system for foreigners named Protection Universelle Maladie (PUMA) which replaced the former Couverture Maladie Universelle or CMU. The PUMA entitles all residents of this country, whether employed or not, to have access to the public healthcare scheme and reimbursements given that they have resided in France for more than three months with the intention to stay for more than 183 days a year.

Guide on Registering for French Healthcare

It is the responsibility of the employer to register the expat to the French social security, but registration to the health care system is not their mandatory obligation. Foreign assignees are advised to process their application by going to their local Caisse Primaire Assurance Maladie (CPAM). Some of the documents that must be presented upon registration are:

  • Passport
  • National ID
  • Proof of Long-term residence (must be more than three months)
  • Birth and/or Marriage Certificates
  • Proof of Income
  • Declaration de Médecin Traitant or Declaration of Attending Physician

Once you have successfully registered with the French healthcare system, you will receive a carte vitale, a green plastic insurance card that’s embedded with a chip that contains the holder’s name, address and social security details. It is a must that you bring your carte vitale with you to any healthcare appointment such as visits to a GP, hospital, specialist and pharmacy.

Hospitals and Immediate Medical Services

Generally speaking, France is considered as a global leader in terms of medical research and facilities. There are two types of hospitals in this country: hôpitaux or state-run and cliniques which are privately owned. Both private and state-funded hospitals in France are equipped with modern facilities, highly trained medical professionals and treatment methods. There are also several walk-in facilities for social work and mental health issues such as Centres Médico-Psycho-Pédagogiques and Centres Médico-Psychologiques.

Accident and Emergency Services (A&E) or also known locally as les urgences are part of the French health care system. All major cities and surrounding towns have a service called SAMU, a municipal humanitarian and emergency service that provides medical and ambulatory assistance to people in distress. SAMU (which can be reached by dialling 15 or 01 45 67 50 50) is manned by trained medical personnel that are equipped with equipment for any respiratory or cardiac emergencies.


France has over 20,000 pharmacies which is twice the number in the United Kingdom. A French pharmacie can be easily identified as a shop that displays a green cross logo outside the establishment. Once you take your prescription, you will be asked to pay upfront for the portion of the medication cost, depending on the type of drug and your insurance coverage while the rest of the payment will be shouldered by the French health care system. Pharmacies in France are usually open from 8:30 am to 7:30 pm, Mondays to Saturdays. Ever town also has at least one pharmacie that opens during Sundays.