About Emergency Services in France
France's healthcare system provides some of the best public health care in the world and is open to all. The standard principal of the French health service is “pay first, reclaim and then get reimbursed”.
Visitors are strongly advised to make sure they have health insurance cover before travelling to France. If you recieve treatment at a hospital as an in-patient, the cost of the stay and associated treatment will be billed as an emergency abroad and can be extremely expensive. Therefore travel insurance of some kind is essential, whether that is through a private company, your bank or just the EHIC scheme.
European visitors should obtain the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which enables them to get state healthcare at a reduced cost or sometimes for free.
If you require a visa to visit France, proof of health insurance coverage is mandatory before you even apply. And non EU visitors should ensure that they have private health insurance before they travel in order to benefit from the French state healthcare service.
There are many pharmacies with staff trained to attend a variety of minor medical needs. If the pharmacy is closed, a list of neighbouring open pharmacies can be found on the door.
How to pay for treatment
For doctor and dentist visits, buying medication from the pharmacy and hospital out-patient treatment, unless you are in the possession of a French “Carte Vitale” you must pay for treatment upfront and then claim a partial refund from the local health insurance office in France or if applicable a full reimbursement through your travel health insurance.
Note: Any costs incurred for private healthcare are non-refundable.
You should always carry with you your EHIC card or insurance documents and present them at the time of the appointment or visit. This will ensure that the doctor gives you the correct forms so that you can reclaim the money spent - the feuille de soins. This form is necessary to claim any refunds in France. You can claim back around 70% of the standard treatment cost.
The majority of doctors, dentists, pharmacies and hospitals will take credit cards for payment but in smaller towns or resorts there is a chance that the service is cash only so you should be aware of this.
Remember to keep all receipts and any paperwork (make copies if necessary) as they might be needed by you or your insurance company to apply for any refund or reimbursement.
If you are admitted to hospital, you should present your EHIC (or ‘carte vitale’) on admission. This will ensure you only pay the patient contribution for state healthcare, around 20%.
If you need to collect medication from a pharmacy you need to present the 'feuille de soins' along with the doctor’s prescription. The price of the medicine will be printed on the feuille de soins that the chemist will return to you with your prescription. You pay the chemist directly. The stickers (vignettes) on the medicine packaging must be removed and stuck on the feuille de soins in the space provided – you cannot claim a refund without it.
Note: Not all medications can be reimbursed and rates vary between 15% and 100 % of the sale price.
Claiming your reimbursement
If you have an EHIC - then claims are made at the local CPAM office (Caisse Primaire D‘Assurance Maladie) in France. You will need to provide the treatment form (feuille de soins) with stickers from the medicine packaging, copies of receipts and prescriptions, a copy of your EHIC, your address of residence and your bank details, (including IBAN and BIC). Confirmation of your refund will be sent to your home address.
If you do not have your EHIC and need to pay the entire cost then keep all your paperwork and receipts and make a claim with your private insurance company.
European emergency service number: 112
SAMU (Provides ambulances & emergency medical care): 15
Fire department (Sapeurs-Pompiers): 18
Police (Gendarmerie): 17
Private on-call emergency care
If you are travelling and have a medical issue you can call SOS Médecins. On-call qualified doctors will come to your hotel or apartment straight away, equipped with the necessary medical material.
To reach them call 3624. You will need to tell them in which department you are located. The price will vary between 50€ & 70€ for the call out, medication at extra cost.