One of the many great things about the French healthcare system is that in certain cases, you can get most of the cost of a spa treatment reimbursed by the state.
Sadly this isn't for anyone who just fancies a nice day relaxing at the spa – you need to be prescribed the cure thermal (spa treatment) by your doctor and there is a list of 12 conditions it is officially approved for.
The treatments themselves are generally hydrotherapy in thermal springs – or mud – or massages, so don't try claiming back the cost of a facial.
But there are enough people who meet these conditions that in 2019 579,000 people in France had a spa treatment that was reimbursed through their carte vitale health card.
However that's a drop off in numbers since 2018, when 598,000 were reimbursed for spa treatments, and numbers also fell from 2017.
Experts put the drop down to two factors; economic conditions and and the temporary closure of four spa treatment centres over the last two years.
The cost of a treatment is reimbursed up to 65 percent, so going for a cure thermal still involves some financial outlay.
And there may have been a problem with access, as four centres had temporary closures during 2019 – Brides-les-Bains in Savoie (12,000 spa visitors), due to work related to the presence of bacteria in the water, Bourbon-Lancy in Saône-et-Loire (4,500), due to a fire, Lons-le-Saunier in the Jura (1,800), due to redevelopment work, and Les Eaux-Bonnes in Pyrénées-Atlantiques (1,000), due to a problem with the structure of the complex.
“The main explanation is cyclical: it is the unusual closure of four thermal establishments”, Thierry Dubois, president of the CNETh (National Council of Thermal Establishments) told local newspaper Sud Ouest.
So how do you go about getting a spa cure?
Well firstly you need your doctor to write a prescription stating that you need one, and this doctor must be your registered medécin traitant – your GP or family doctor.
There are 12 things which make you eligible for a cure thermale, but some of the categories are pretty vague. They are;
- digestive disorders
- psychosomatic conditions
- urinary disorders
- dermatology conditions
- gynaecological conditions
- cardio-arterial diseases
- neurological conditions
- blood disorders
- rheumatological conditions
- developmental disorders in children
- respiratory diseases
- bronchial disorders