I always advise my British clients to contact the NHS (Tel. 01912 181 999 - overseas) before relocating to France in order to apply for the necessary documents to get into the French Health Service. You need to apply for a S1. This document can take a while to come through so it is best to apply for them just before moving to France.
Once it is in your possession, visit your local CPAM (Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie). Your local mairie will be able to give you the address of the local branch. As the French love their paperwork, always carry with you for the 6 months following your move to France your passport, birth certificates, marriage certificates, and a proof of address (phone, EDF or water bill) with you The CPAM office will also need your bank details. It is called a RIB (Relevé d’identité bancaire). Your French bank will supply you with several RIB when you open a French bank account but if you require more just ask your bank, they will print some more for you. You can also find one in your cheque book.
Once you are registered it will take a while for you to receive your Carte Vitale but in the meantime you will get a proof of your registration called “attestation”. Carry this paperwork with you all the time. I always advise my British clients to copy it and keep a copy in their hand bag, wallets and glove box of the car. Emergencies can happen anytime! The doctor, dentist, chemist and any other practitioners and healthcare specialists will ask for the attestation. Once you’ve received your Carte Vitale keep the attestation in your file. It will be handy to have if you lose your Carte Vitale.
You will then have to register with a doctor (médecin traitant). You are free to choose the one you want and can change anytime. You will have to send a new “Déclaration de choix du médecin traitant” each time you decide to change. Those forms can be picked up from the CPAM or you ill find one online by visiting www.ameli.fr.
For the expats arriving in France and who are not officially retired or employed in France they will have to take up private health insurance until they reach retirement age or have lived in France for 5 years. Many insurance companies offer private insurance. Shop around and budget for it now as it can be pricy!
If you are self-employed, you won’t have to register with CPAM. Where you register to pay your health and social charges will depend on what professional activity you have. This information will be given to you on registering your business.
It sounds rather complicated – I know. When I first moved back to France (I lived in Jersey in the Channel Islands for 8 years) I was facing the same procedure as any expats. If you are employed in France and become self-employed (or vice versa) make sure you contact the new social security.
Don’t assume because you are paying social charges (charges sociales) that you are covered!
Don’t assume the ‘old’ social security will inform the ‘new’ one about you!
When I set up my business I had 2 Cartes Vitales, one from CPAM and one from Mutelle Action both showing that I and my partner were insured in France. However following an emergency at the hospital I was facing a 125 euros bill that none of the social securities wanted to reimburse! I had to write to both and explain the situation. I did get my money back but I couldn’t understand how suddenly they didn’t know although I had 2 valid Cartes Vitales!
Registering can be long but it is worth it. Remember: the French healthcare service is one of the best in the world, offering a wide choice of general practitioners and healthcare specialists!
If you need any assistance with registering with the French Health System, don’t hesitate to contact me. I will pleased to help.
Please drop me a line if you find this post useful.