France: world class skiing and healthcare

Posted on 16 January 2017

Part of the joy of heading over to your skiing property in France will be avoiding the endless headlines about the NHS’s traditional winter health crisis! So what can you expect from the French health system, both for everyday care and should you have an accident on the slopes?

The good news is that when visiting your French ski retreat you’ll be able to enjoy the stunning alpine scenery safe in the knowledge that you and your family’s health is in good hands.

Anyone will tell you that the French healthcare system is among the best in the world. The hospitals are well funded, modern and well equipped. Your village GP will give a great service and there is little if any waiting for an appointment.

You do need to affiliate to the system in order to benefit from it, however. If you don’t, an average doctor’s appointment costs €23 and will only increase if any drugs are prescribed and ongoing treatment recommended. That might be okay for a short visit, but not if you are planning to live in France in the long run. And let’s face it, while hurtling down a mountain on a board or skis is an extremely exciting pastime, it’s been known to cause the odd injury or two, so it pays to be prepared.

Anyone will tell you that the French healthcare system is among the best in the world.

The first thing to think about is residency. If you have a second home in France, you may well want to stay within the UK system and simply rely on your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which is free and will cover you for emergencies – although you may well have to pay up front.

If you are a full-time resident and receiving a UK state pension you are entitled to transfer your healthcare rights to France via the S1 form (used to be called the E121). This is normally sent out as a matter of course from the Department of Work and Pensions in Newcastle, along with notification of your pension. You need to take this form to your local CPAM office in France (there is one in most towns and larger villages) where you will receive your Carte Vitale. This entitles you to payment of roughly 70% off your medical treatment.

If you are in employment in France, you will also be entitled to a Carte Vitale. It’s worth noting that if you are married and working in France, your spouse is entitled to cover on your Carte Vitale and will also receive payment of 70% of their treatment – not everyone knows that!

Most French people and many expats take out what is called “top-up” insurance, which will then cover the part of the treatments that the state does not pay – usually 30%. There are numerous levels of cover, ranging from around €30 to €100 per month, but be aware that the amounts do vary across French regions. Take advice from neighbours and friends and fellow expats for recommendations of a good insurance company.

You could of course give the top-up a miss and still know that you will only pay the 30% of any treatment costs, but if you are at retirement age or older, it may offer peace of mind to fork out for the top up.

For  more details on the ins and outs of buying property in France,  download the France Buying Guide from, by clicking here.


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