Living as an expat in France is indeed very beneficial specifically with regards to the efficiency of the country’s healthcare system which was ranked as the best in the world according to the World Health Organization. The public healthcare system in France is now quite accessible to expats especially as the regulations have been changed to the “Protection Universelle Maladie” (PUMA) in 2016. The French public healthcare system accounts for a certain level of insurance coverage for expats in France, however, there is a need for a supplementary insurance, referred to as a “mutuelle”. This “mutuelle” is usually provided by private health insurance companies who offer specific policies designed to address the needs of a certain group of individuals and expats.

The public healthcare insurance in France makes the payment to cover only about 70% of the medical costs incurred by the expat in France as well as specific basic health requirements. This leaves extra costs of the 30% and certain specific health needs from specialists such as physiotherapists and emergency medical care at the hands of the expat. Many of the private health insurance companies offer policies to pay for the outstanding 30% of the basic healthcare and several highly specialized medical services. Due to the nature of the health insurance cover, the prices of such services vary depending on the insurance company and the contents of the health insurance policy. There are also some determinants such as the age of the expat and in specific cases, the health history of the expat in France as some individuals may require customized insurance policies to suit their health needs.

Generally, the insurance policies cover hospital care as well as medicine and may sometimes include cover for dental health. Expats who have need for skilled professionals in complementary medical fields like psychology, osteopathy and chiropractic care or expats with chronic health conditions and pre-existing illnesses would have to request these in services in the private health insurance obtained.

Private health insurance policies for expats in France are offered on for two main purposes:

"Top-up" health insurance

As a form of “top-up” health insurance policy. This arises when the expat uses the private health insurance policy to supplement the already provided public health insurance policy. In this situation, the private health insurance policy serves as a “mutuelle” to ensure that the expat has comprehensive healthcare coverage.

As with many other insurance policies, there are specific regulations which help guide insurance companies and health insurance policy holders. Some of these regulations include:

  • All French residents, fulfilling the conditions for legal residency, are entitled to such complementary health insurance policies and as such should not be refused regardless of previously existing health conditions.

  • In order to obtain better or more specialised healthcare, the individual is expected to pay a commensurate fee. In essence, to get more from the health insurance policy, one would have to pay more.

  • The policy would be in effect for an initial period of two years after which the health insurance policy holder can then cancel the policy. The insurance provider is not able to cancel the policy without the consent of the policy holder.

  • Additionally, the insurance policy provider is not expected to make any large or unusual increase to the health insurance premiums.

Complete health insurance

There are also complete private health insurance policies available to expats who are unable to access any insurance cover from the public health insurance system in France. This may be due to the expats inability to meet all the requirements to qualify for the French public healthcare insurance system (PUMA).

Private insurance companies offer several health insurance policies specifically created for expatriates who intend to live in France for a long period of time usually over 12 months. A number of expatriates utilize these policies especially when they are not able to obtain healthcare insurance from their home country. The levels of insurance cover provided depends on the insurance policy providers and the needs of the expat. As a guide, some health insurance providers may offer up to four types of health insurance cover such as an emergency cover in case of certain unforeseen circumstances, an essential cover to ensure that basic medical needs are catered to, a comfort cover which is a suitable for common medical expenses and a premium cover which is usually a comprehensive policy to cater to unlimited medical needs.

Just as there are various policies and the value obtained from each one differs from the next, the prices will also be distinct. Similarly, each insurance policy provider may choose to focus on specific areas to improve customer loyalty and the degree of responsiveness, especially in an emergency, of each of the health insurance policy providers would also be different. Expats in France would need to identify the private insurance provider that is the most appropriate fit in terns of both policy, costs and customer relationship management.

In summary, it is important to know that there are other short-term insurance policies offered by private insurance companies for expats who do not intend to stay for a long period in France or those who are yet to obtain the French public healthcare insurance policy. All these available options of private insurance companies and the details of the policy costs, limits and services provided under each policy, may be overwhelming and take a long time to comprehend, as such it would be prudent to find out more information about health insurance for expats in France from professionals who can help sort through all these options and identify the health insurance policy which is most suitable for you.