Health Care And Health Insurance For Expats In France

“Last weekend, just for your readers,” writes Correspondent Lucy Culpepper, “I thought I would try out the French Health Service.

“Well, actually, it wasn’t for research purposes…but out of necessity; I had to have an unexpected appendectomy. And here I am just six days later reporting to you.

“As I lay breathing in anesthetic, I felt quite pleased with myself. I had managed to time an infected appendix just one day into our new French insurance cover! One day earlier, and I would have been in Insurance No-Man’s Land…

“I arrived at the emergency desk doubled over and clutching my stomach at 11 p.m. on Saturday night. We didn’t have any insurance documents (in the mail), and I had forgotten to grab my passport in the rush to get to the hospital. All I had was my Spanish driving license for I.D., and I’m British, so that could have added to the confusion. But no. The reception staff was unphased and simply started proceedings, even finding a doctor who spoke a smattering of English.

“I was transferred to a bed and taken to my room (shared with a young French-Moroccan girl) on the Abdominal Surgery Ward. After running a few tests, they decided to operate first thing Sunday morning.

“Here’s the French take on Sunday morning surgery: It starts 30 minutes later than normal so that the nurses have time to serve fresh croissants (dry toast and jam during the week) and hot chocolate to the patients and the surgeon.

“I’ll pass over the proceedings but suffice it to say the ‘prep’ staff was super caring and kind. My room was airy and clean and a good place to recover. The food was not quite Michelin standard but maybe that was the enforced ‘recovery diet’ plus elected vegetarianism?

“Operation on Sunday, out on Tuesday. As the surgeon checked me out, he handed me a ream of paperwork. The French, by their own admission, love paperwork. I’ve even heard one Frenchman call his people ‘les rois de papier’…the kings of paper.

“Included in the paperwork was a set of instructions for a nurse. I was told to phone my mairie (town hall/mayor’s office) and ask for the number of the local nurse.

“At the administration office/check out, I was asked for my non-existent insurance card. I gave them a contract number and phone number. They phoned as I waited. A two-minute call. No problem, all covered. Phew!

“Once home, I called the mairie, and, the next day, Stephane, a slightly brusque, balding, rugby-playing nurse arrived. He (Stephane’s not a female, balding rugby player) will visit each day (including Sunday) to administer a daily injection, take a blood sample, and ultimately remove my stitches.

“Not a bad service. Especially when it is all covered by our insurance. If the nursing service were not covered, we would pay out-of-pocket about 6 euro per visit.

“I can strongly recommend the insurance agency Philippe Schreinemachers Sarl. We used them to set up both our family health insurance (April Mobilite) and our car
insurance (Generali). Their website is

“The agency provides a range of French insurance options in English–something that is hard to find, I can tell you. Even if you are a fluent in French, it is reassuring to have everything translated into English so that you can be sure you understand fully before you sign.

“Healthcare provision and knowing what you need and that everything is in place is so key to feeling secure in a new home…whether your new home is on a mountainside in Panama or in a French provincial town.”