The French healthcare system is often considered one of the best in the world, and the great news is that despite BREXIT, you can still get full access to French healthcare  ( called L’Assurance Maladie in France) if you are relocating to France and you have legal residency in France.

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The system is a little different to the NHS, once you’re in the system (or more specifically you hold a Carte Vitale), the French government will generally reimburse 70% of your medical costs. In addition private insurance companies offer top-up plans (called a mutuelle)  to cover all or some of the excess 30%. There are some exceptions, for example if you’re on a low income scheme you’ll be eligible for 100% reimbursement.

How Do You Get Hold of a Carte Vitale?

Carte Vitale is essentially a government health insurance that is free for French residents. There’s a few different ways of getting your hands on a Carte Vitale, and this generally depends on what your status is in France. First all you need to have been living in France for more than 3 months before you can start the application process, and you’ll need to prove that with supporting documentation (e.g., three consecutive rent receipts or utility bills).

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Protection Universelle Maladie (PUMA).

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PUMa applies to all people working in France, or who are resident in France on a stable and regular basis. PUMa offers health care cover in the event of sickness or pregnancy without any extra paperwork. PUMa is accessible to:

Anybody working on a regular basis in France, from the very start of their employment;

Anybody residing in France on a stable and regular basis (regardless of employment, and provided they are not covered by the social protection system of another State). However, they must prove that they have been resident in French territory on an uninterrupted basis for at least 3 months, and that they reside there for at least 6 months per year

How to benefit from PUMa as an expat

Complete the form applying for health insurance under the French Social Security system; YES its all in French, so get used to it.  You can fill it out online, but like most official processes in France , you cannot submit it on-line. So print it out, and attach the required documents (proof of residency, a certified translation in French of your birth certificate, and marriage certificate if relevant, your bank RIB (the document with your bank details). And send the complete file  to your local CPAM (Caisse primaire d’assurance maladie).

After a little while, you’ll receive an email with a temporary social security number, and you can use this number to register with a Doctor in France. When you eventually receive a permanent  social security number you’ll need to open  an online account on Ameli. At this point, you can order the Carte Vitale by uploading a passport photograph and your permanent social security number via your online space. Yeeeah!

When you get your Carte Vitale  your repayment forms will be automatically sent to France’s Social Security system. In certain cases (‘tiers payant’), you’ll be reimbursed directly (meaning that you will not have to pay in advance).

To learn more, you can contact France’s health insurance system on 3646 (from a French landline) or by visiting


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Finding a Doctor in France

To qualify for reimbursement you must have a médécin traitant  (be registered with a GP), but you are free to choose any médécin conventionné (doctor affiliated with the health service) and it’s easy to change doctors if you wish. If you live in a rural area, you may have to travel some distance as there is a severe shortage of GPs in some parts of France. The easiest way to find a doctor is via the website Doctolib.

Top-up health insurance (Mutuelle)

Its important to know that standard state French health insurance only covers part of your costs (normally 70%)

It’s important to sign up for a top-up health insurance policy to guarantee you’ll have all your costs covered, for example optical care, dental care and auditory prostheses. A complementary policy will also repay any additional medical fees (‘dépassements d’honoraires médicaux’) you may incur, as these are only partially covered by French Social Security.

There’s plenty of insurance companies offering this type of cover – you can use a comparison sites like

Or go direct to an insurance company like Axa

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