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HEALTH

How to get a carte vitale in France and why you need one

Applying for the health card carte vitale will get you free or discounted healthcare, but it will also make sure you are in the French social security system.

How to get a carte vitale in France and why you need one
The carte vitale grants you a refund on the cost of healthcare. Photo: AFP

The carte vitale is the national French health insurance card that allows those who have one to have most or all of their health costs either covered or reimbursed by the state.

The cards work mainly as a reimbursement system – when you have a doctor's appointment or are prescribed medication, you pay upfront to the doctor or pharmacist.

They then swipe your carte vitale and the government reimburses some or all of the cost directly back into your bank account.

The card doesn't pay for all of your medical costs unless in serious cases like cancer or heart disease.

How much is covered by the state depends on the treatment or action taken by the doctor. For example the rates of reimbursement depend on the specialist you see or the type of scan you get. 

In general for dental treatment the rates are much lower.`

So who pays the rest of the bill?

Most people have top up health insurance – known as a mutuelle – to cover the difference (or most of it) between what the state pays via the carte vitale and the total fee.

Anyone who is working in France or who has been legally resident for more than three months is entitled to the carte vitale and it is not means tested.

Until now, many British people living in France have relied on the European health insurance card, what used to be called the E111.

However it is advised that these people now get a carte vitale, firstly because the European health insurance card won't work after Brexit, and second because it is another way of ensuring that you are “in the system” in France.

So how to go about it?

Like most things in France, it will probably involve a lot of paperwork, but the system itself is relatively simple.

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The French health insurance site Ameli

First you need to get an application form – these are available to download from the French health insurance site – www.ameli.fr.

The form itself is fairly straightforward and just asks for personal details like name, age and address. 

It does include a box for a social security number, which you will not have yet – just ignore that. The same form is also used for people who already have a carte vitale but need to change their details.

 

You will then have to return the form by post to your local CPAM office (find out yours here) accompanied by various documents. You will need:

A photocopy of your passport

A photocopy of your visa or carte de sejour if you are required to have one (not currently needed for EU or Swiss citizens).

Your birth certificate. This cannot be a copy but must be the original. It must be the full certificate including parents' names (not the shorter certificate that most British people born before 1983 will have) and if it is not in French you will need to include a certified translation of it.

Your bank details – the relevé d'identite bancaire (RIB) that you are given by your bank. 

If you are working you will need proof of your employment – either a copy of your contract or a pay slip

If you are not working but are already in the system – for example as a jobseeker or asylum seeker – you will need to send copies of all the paperwork pertaining to your status.

If you are not working and are not already in the system you will need to send proof that you have been a resident in France for three months, documents accepted include rental contracts, utility bills, phone bills (but only for a fixed line, not a mobile) and, if you are studying, a certificate of study.

If you have children under the age of 18 living with you then you will need to include form S3705 – the Demande de rattachement des enfants mineurs à l'un ou aux deux parents assurés (application for the attachment of minor children to a parent's health insurance). This form is also available to download from the www.ameli.fr site. 

Once you have filled in the form and sent off the paperwork you should – if all the papers are correct – get a temporary number.

You can use this to claim back the cost of any health treatments, but you will have to fill out paper forms (feuille de soins) to claim them.

You then receive a permanent social security number. The time it takes to get the number varies significantly from area to area, some people get theirs in just a few weeks, for others it can take up to six months.

Once you get your permanent number, you will then get a second form to fill out and send back, together with a passport photo, and then you will be sent out the card.

The final thing to do is to choose a registered GP and fill out a form (declaration de choix du médecin traitant) that formally declares them as your chosen doctor.

While the whole process can be a lengthy one there are several bits of good news.

Firstly the Amelie site has an English section which explains the requirements for different classifications – retired, employed, self employed.

If you're still stuck there is an English language helpline, which is open from 8.30am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Call 0 811 36 36 46 or 09 74 75 36 46 from France or 0033 811 36 36 46 from outside France.

Once you have a social security number you can set up an account on the Ameli site which you can use to track payments and make other changes, for example if you move house and need to change your address.

French vocab

L'assurance maladie – health insurance

Numéro de sécurité sociale – social security number

Medicin traitant – Your registered GP

Member comments

  1. This is a very useful item – really clear, setting out the terms of the CV. There is so much rumour and misleading data about the role of the “Mutuelle” out there on other sites. We have submitted our first application for the CV, so now can wait – with relief – that the rest will follow smoothly!

  2. Yes, but don’t you also need to obtain a S1 form from the UK if you’re receiving state pension, or, a refusal
    of S1 letter if you’re not receiving it?

  3. I’ve been fighting for a carte vitale for four years now. I dont have a birth certificate. My now deceased parents didn’t bother to register my birth. I left home at 15 and social servo got me a NI number and passport. I’ve paid in NI and taxes all my life. I now own a business and home in France and pay my taxes and have a residency card. All this without a birth certificate but CPAM have not accepted decades of passports and tax docs,
    Does anyone have any idea how I can get my carte vitale or who I have to talk to? CPAM asked my deceased parents to confirm this but as yet they haven’t replied 🙂

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For members

LIVING IN FRANCE

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

Strikes

But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.

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