Health Care in France

9 Sep

It has taken me over 18 months to suss this out as I have not needed to use the system so far, however other people have so I am now able to explain the system available to us out here. In emergency dial 112 and ask for Samu unless it is a motor accident when you ask for the Gendarmerie.

The first thing we had to do was apply for a Carte Vitale which enables us to use the health care on the government tab. This requires several visits with appropriate documents to the Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM) office in Carcassonne. It is necessary to go more than once due to the beaurocratic processes used which can be interpreted differently by different administrators! It took nearly 6 months for my card to come through. This acts as an identity card for health care.

I used my card first when I visited the optician. This meant that I only had to pay €15 for the full tests by an ophthalmologist (Dr) including for glaucoma. Then I was reimbursed about two weeks later. Unfortunately opticians are few and far between in France and in the rural communities you have to wait about 3 months for an appointment. On completion of the test I was given a prescription for new lenses to take to any optician, as they are found in separate shops and not affiliated with the ophthalmologist. However the cost of glasses is very high.

Because I am registered I now receive free mammograms and bowel cancer tests. They send out a reminder for you to make an appointment at a hospital or clinic of your choice. I only had to wait one or two weeks for these. I received my results of the bowel cancer test one week after the test was sent off in the post! All clear. I received my X-rays for the mammogram complete with report two weeks later. Again all clear. The patient keeps their own records and X-rays here rather than the hospital, so it is your own fault if they are lost.

One of the volunteers had an accident and injured his foot so we took him to A&E. He went to reception with his insurance papers and was seen immediately by the nurse. He only had to wait a few minutes before being taken through for X-ray but it was about 3 hours later that he came out with X-rays, prescription for medication and crutches as he had broken a bone in his foot. So we took him straight to a pharmacy to get them. He had to pay for some of his medication as he chooses not to have a Carte Vitale but he claims it back from his insurers.


When Richard visits our GP he has to pay €25 in cash to the doctor
and for any medications but he can claim this back from the UK.

Here is a video explaining how the emergency services work in France (just in case you need them when visiting us)!

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