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HEALTH

Carte vitale: Five surprising things available on your French health insurance

Some of the treatments available to you with the basic health insurance you are entitled to with your carte vitale in France are slightly more surprising than others. Here's a look at some of them.

Carte vitale: Five surprising things available on your French health insurance
Spa treatments are reimbursed by the French health service under certain circumstances. Photo: AFP
Working out what your carte vitale entitles you to within the French health service can be a complicated business. 
 
After taking a look at what you can claim back from the French state with your carte vitale if you have the basic cover afforded by the card, with no top-up insurance, in terms of general healthcare, and how much dental and eye appointments will cost you, this time we're focusing on the more unusual treatments you have access to under the French health system. 
 
Here are a few of them. 
 
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Carte vitale: What your French health insurance card entitles you toPhoto: AFP

Spa treatments
 
Yes, you read that correctly… but of course the catch is that you need to have a prescription from a doctor stating that you need a cure thermal (in French) for medical reasons. 
 
You'll also need to request your reimbursement before having your treatment to find out how much the French State is willing to reimburse you for it and naturally the reimbursement varies according to your resources and the condition you are treating.
 
To be reimbursed, you must be suffering from a condition that falls into one of 12 categories listed by the health service, which includes things such as digestive disorders, skin conditions, gynecological issues and rheumatism. 
 
So it might not be that easy to get your hands on a free massage, after all.

Condoms

The French government announced back in November that it would take the rare step of reimbursing prescription-bought condoms to combat the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
 
This measure, which covers French-made Eden condoms obtained on prescription from a doctor or midwife, is yet to come into effect but is expected to do so soon. 
 
The idea would be that the State covers 60 percent of the cost of the condoms, hoping that top-up health insurance providers would cover the remainder.
 
Photo: AFP
 
Produced by Majorelle laboratories and sold only in pharmacies, Eden condoms cost a fraction of leading brands such as Durex or Manix at €2.60 euros for a box of 12.
 
They are the first to be approved for reimbursement by France's national health authority, one of the few in Europe to do so.
 
Agnes Buzyn, the health minister who is a trained doctor, sounded the alarm over the risk of HIV transmission among condom-averse young people.
 
Around 6,000 new cases of HIV infection were diagnosed in 2016 – down five percent since 2013 – taking the number of people living with the virus in France to over 172,000.
 
Currently condoms are available for free in Family Planning Centres. Find your nearest here.
 
Nicotine substitutes
 
There's also some good news for any smokers who want to quit out there. 
 
Since January 1st 2019, French health insurance has reimbursed nicotine substitutes, such as lozenges and patches, by 65 percent. Previously it was subject to a €150 cap but that is no longer the case.
 
You can consult the full list of nicotine substitutes reimbursed by the French health service, including Nicorette, here
 
Studies have shown that nicotine substitutes are very effective in helping you stop smoking, increasing your chances of quitting from 50 percent to 70 percent, according to the French health insurance site Ameli,fr.
 
Smoking on the rise in France despite rollout of plain packaging
Photo: AFP
 
Homeopathy
 
Homeopathic medicine is a big part of French life. 
 
All pharmacies sell homeopathic products, and the pharmacists can generally always advise on alternative treatments.
 
However this could all be about to change. 
 
While the French health service currently reimburses 30 percent of the cost of homeopathic medicines, a report by health authority La Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) released a report last week stating that this policy should be scrapped. 
 
This is down to the fact that it provides an “insufficient medical service”, according to the health authority based on a study of 1,200 homeopathic medicines. 

 
Breast implant removal
 
There have been a number of cases of incidents involving breast implants filled with silicone gel made by the company Poly Implant Prothèse and in some cases the French health service will reimburse the cost of the complications. 
 
This is usually for cases in which the implant has ruptured. 
 
In France, around 30,000 women have had this kind of breast implant, both as reconstructive surgery after suffering illnesses such as breast cancer, for example, as well as for cosmetic surgery.
 
The French health service may cover a certain amount of the cost whatever the initial reason for the surgery. 
 
If you have this kind of implant, the health service recommends discussing your options with your doctor.  

 
For the full information on all of these treatments and other issues concerning French healthcare, visit Ameli.fr. 

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HEALTH

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.

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