If you are planning to study in France, it's important to understand the health care system and how it can affect you. Many foreign students will find that the health care system in France functions quite differently than in their home country, so it’s important to learn about how to seek medical treatment in case the unexpected happens.
France has a strong, highly advanced health care system. In 2000, the World Health Organization said that it provided “close to best overall health care” in the world. If you plan to study or travel, you can expect medical treatment in France to be highly sophisticated and first class. According to the American Journal of Public Health, “indicators of health status and consumer satisfaction are high; its expenditures, as a share of gross domestic product, are far lower than in the United States; and patients have an extraordinary degree of choice among providers.”
Public health care in France was established in 1945 and remains in existence today. While there have been many
changes over the years, the most major change has been to adopt universal health care coverage, or in French,
couverture maladie universelle. Universal health care expanded coverage to all legal residents and was
established to ensure financial protection for its citizens.
This universal health care system is financed through personal income tax as well as employee and employer contributions. In terms of practice, the universal health care in France generally refunds 60-70% of most health care costs depending on the severity and situation.
Health care in France is divided into public and private. Individuals who have the national health insurance can choose either facility and get reimbursed. Because a portion is not covered, 90% of the population has supplementary health insurance to get greater coverage.
The health care system in France offers a wide range of health care specialists to choose from. Many health professionals work in both private and public facilities. Approximately 60% of hospitals in France are publicly owned and managed, the remaining amount is shared with for-profit and non-profit hospitals. Private providers are generally for-profit organizations that depend on their fee-for-service model. Overall, however, there is no major difference in the quality of medical treatment in France between private and public facilities in France - and the price difference doesn’t vary greatly. Waiting lists are rare no matter whether you go to a private or public facility.
Keep in mind, however, that medical treatment in France is not free at the time of visit. No matter whether you went to a private or public clinic, or if you are registered under the health care system in France, you will be expected to pay first and get reimbursed at a later date.