France offers excellent care and facilities, but the 35-hour work week has led to difficulties in staffing and closures are not uncommon in the provinces. There is also a shortage of certain specialists.
Hospitals (hôpital) and clinics (clinique) are indicated by the international hospital sign of a red "H" on a white background and the hospital emergency room is known as urgences. Hospitals are listed in the yellow pages under Hôpitaux et Hospices. There are both public and private facilities. For non-urgent hospital treatment, find out about reimbursement before checking in. A document outlining your rights (charte des droits et libertés) should be available wherever you're admitted.
Public Hospital - There are over 50 assistance publique (public health service) hospitals in Paris. There are three categories of public hospital:
Hospital centers or short-stay hospitals (hôpital de court séjour):
Medium stay centers (centre de moyen séjour): Medium stay hospitals are usually for patients who have previously been treated in a short-stay hospital centre. They contaiun facilities for convalescence, occupational and physical therapy, and recuperative treatment for drug and alcohol abuse and mental illness.
Long term treatment centers (centre et unité de long séjour): Long-term treatment centers are for those who are unable to care for themselves without assistance and include psychiatric hospitals and nursing homes (maisons de retraite).
Private hospitals (hôpital privé) and clinics (clinique) - Most private hospitals specialize in inpatient care in particular fields of medicine, such as obstetrics. The cost of treatment in a private hospital or clinic is generally much higher than in a public hospital, but private facilities may also have an agreement where around 30 percent of the fees paid by social security. Patients not comfortable with French may prefer private care with a majority English-speaking staff.
CHUs are where medical students do their training. They are rated among the best hospitals in France and professors and senior staff must undergo intensive training to secure their appointments.
Under French law, any health organization, public or private, must treat patients in an emergency situation regardless of their ability to pay. The number for general emergency is 112 and the number for SAMU (ambulance) is 15. After 17:30 and on weekends, contact hospitals: La Pitié, Hôtel-Dieu, Lariboisière, Necker, Bichat.
Pharmacies (Pharmacie) can be found anywhere with many locations in Paris. They can be identified by their flashing green crosses. Business hours are Monday to Saturday, generally between the hours of 9:00 to 20:00. Major supermarkets often have a pharmacy counter and are open during the hours the market is open. During hours of closure, there will be a select number of pharmacies open providing out-of-hours service (service de garde). A notice in the window should inform you of the closest open pharmacy.
Social security reimburses the cost for essential medication for certain illnesses or conditions (insulin, blood pressure medication) and 65 percent of medicines designated as important (with white labels) and 35 percent for médicaments de confort (blue labels). Some medicines are not reimbursed, such as most contraceptive pills. Reimbursement is determined by a detachable label (vignette) on the box that is removed and used for the claim form.
Pharmacies with an updated computer system use the Carte Vitale and reimbursement is handled right away.
Dental care (soins dentaires) operates on a similar basis to general medical services, but there is no need to be referred by a general practitioner. Reimbursement of 70% is available from the social security system. For emergency work on a Sunday or a public holiday, there is an additional charge, but this may be reimbursable.
Recommendations from friends, colleagues and neighbors is the best way to find a dentist. Listings can also be found under "Dental Surgeons" in the Yellow Pages.
With so much to deal with before leaving your home country, (taxes, moving house, paperwork etc.) the careful planning of your expatriation to Paris is an essential step. As far as healthcare is concerned, your local social security scheme won’t be accompanying you to your host country and, once abroad, you might be surprised by the care system you find in France. So, before leaving, make sure you have appropriate cover!
EasyExpat.com works in partnership with APRIL International to provide specific insurance solutions for travelling or staying outside your country of nationality.
Designed for either short or long stays, APRIL International’s insurance policies offer protection against any problems that might arise before departure or during your time in France: cancelling your trip, medical expenses following an illness or accident, needing to be repatriated, causing damage to a third party or losing your luggage.
For more information on expat health insurance in France, visit our partner APRIL International