How to Join the French Healthcare System

Originally posted on & updated on 11th January, 2024

We’ve previously written on our blog about how families and seniors can get started with the CPAM registration process. So with the global pandemic and winter around the corner, we wanted to revisit this very essential part for any family or person arriving to live and settle in France.

France is very lucky to have one of the best healthcare system in the world, and if you are a moving permanently with the family or are seniors retiring,  the few steps below will help to explain how to join the French healthcare system.

How to join the Healthcare System or CPAM

In order to register with your local social security office ( CPAM for Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladies) you will be required to submit a certain documents:

  • An S1 form: this form will be given to you by the department of health and social security of your country. It is not yet clear how Brexit will affect this for Brits, and don’t know whether it will be maintained or not
  • A birth certificate (translated into french)
  • A household or utilty bill in your name to prove your address in France
  • Copy of your passport (must have a valid date)
  • Your bank details (a RIB) for reimbursements

Once your application has been approved, you will be given a temporary number, followed a few weeks later by an application for a Carte Vitale. ( A health ID card which has your photo and personal number and is presented to the doctor or pharmacy at every visit)

Your registration will start at the date of your original application. In order to benefit from a full cover, it is important to designate a doctor who will look after you and refer you to any specialists if needed.

How Does the CPAM Work?

In general terms, CPAM pays 70% of your costs, the 30% are met by a top up health insurance or by yourself if you decide not to subscribe to one, but most families opt for one.

The reimbursements are sent automatically to your account on presentation of your “carte vitale”: it triggers a message to CPAM and once their payment has been sent, they also send a message to your top up insurance so that they can settle their part of the reimbursement. This is all automatic and should involve very little paperwork, especially if you are using their online platform called Ameli. For information or a quotation for a top up health insurance, simply fill out the online form, you’ll receive a quote in English, in 24 hours.

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