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Choosing French Top-Up Private Healthcare Insurance
Over the past couple of weeks our blog has focused on the French healthcare system. While this isn’t one of the more glamorous parts of you new life abroad, it’s a really important part and making sure you have all your healthcare ducks in a row is essential. Ideally, you should make all the healthcare calls, visits and decisions you need to make before your move, but if it’s already too late for that, or if that’s not practical, then do make a point of sorting this side of your new life out as soon as you possibly can.
We’ve already explained in global terms how the reimbursement system in France works, with the stage typically refunding around 70% of your expenditure once you’re ‘in the system’. So, when it comes to the additional 30%, you can either make the decision to fund this yourself or to take out an insurance policy to cover it. In most instances it doesn’t make financial sense to plan to cover this expense yourself. The sad fact about life and health is that none of us know what’s round the corner and medical bills can mount very quickly. As a result, it normally makes best sense to insure yourself and your family, so that your medical expenses aren’t a worry.
In this article we’ll explain how to go about choosing your mutuelle/complémentaire santé.
Understanding the basics
There are various different levels of policy, from basic cover to guaranteed cover for the actual costs of all medical expenses. Which you choose will depend on a clever balance between your budget and the importance you place on being reimbursed in full for treatments.
It is now relatively uncommon for health questions to be asked when taking out a mutuelle/complémentaire santé so that’s one thing you shouldn’t need to worry about.
Defining your needs
The most important thing is getting enough cover for your needs, but also making sure that you aren’t over-sold health cover. While it is common for people to arrive in France with a significant amount of capital at the start, it is worth bearing in mind that it may take some time to establish an income stream.
What this means is that while you might feel relatively ‘rich’ at the outset, it’s really important to balance your spending with your long-term financial possibilities. This impacts on your choice of health cover, because in the early stages of your new life in France you may well struggle to understand everything that’s being explained to you, particularly about top up health cover. Nevertheless, it’s really important to make sure you don’t waste hard-earned cash by making the wrong decisions.
The importance of shopping around
There are a huge number of health cover options in France including companies with exclusive online presence and with physical agencies. Not surprisingly prices vary substantially from provider to provider, which is one of the best reasons to shop around. That said, there is rarely an argument for choosing the cheapest cover, just because it’s the cheapest. So, how do you decide who to ask for a quote?
The first decision to make is whether or not you feel comfortable with an online only solution for your health insurance. We can definitely help with this, as we have special forms on the website to request a quote in english from our bilingual french insurance expert. Unless your French is very good, the chances are you’ll find telephone conversations a bit unnerving at the start, so our advice is to to fill out as many forms as possible, perhaps 3 - 4 and compare the quotes, the small print and the command of english, is the small print in english too?
Assuming that you’ve decided a High Street presence is important for you, so you can see someone face-to-face, you then need to establish whether or not you’re relying on finding an English-speaker or if you’re happy to work with someone who only speaks French. Clearly if you’re happy to work with someone who only speaks French, your choice will be widened. If you are fixed on an English speaker, you may well have to swallow the fact that you might be unlucky and end up paying a slight premium for that.
Either way, asking friends and contacts is a great place to start. By working this way you can establish which insurance agents in your area are effective, efficient and price competitive. If you don’t already have a circle of contacts, then your only option is either to drive around to see which agents are operating in your local area or to check out your local Pages Jaunes. (Yellow Pages).
It’s worth identifying a few agents and either asking them to come to visit you or going to their office. When you meet them, make sure you have a full list of your insurance requirements and ask them for quotes for each part of the cover you need eg. house, car, health etc. Once you have quotes for each, it’s worth asking if you can negotiate a reduction if you take out more than one policy, or every policy with them.
When you have gathered up quotes from 3 or 4 companies, it’s then a simple case of double-checking that they are all offering the same levels of cover; weighing up which agent you found easiest to deal with and comparing the prices. Do bear in mind that a few euro of overpayment is a small price to pay for an agent who seems significantly friendlier or more approachable than the others.
If you’d like help to track down the right mutuelle/complémentaire santé/top up private insurance for your needs, why not get in touch? And we may be able to assist with your car renewal, even to transfer your currency over to France.