French Social Security
The French social security system is the first place to look when you are considering health insurance options. If you are legally working in France, you are already automatically covered by the French social security system, in which there are virtually no waiting lists and the quality of service is considered to be excellent compared to most countries.
Sickness insurance is available to everyone in France. The general plan that covers almost everyone is the regime general. It covers most employees, students, job seekers, and persons collecting worker's compensation as well as retired people.
Sickness insurance takes two forms. The insured party may be reimbursed for any medical, pharmaceutical and hospital expenses, and may also receive a daily sickness allowance when injury or illness has caused him or her to lose pay.
Those admitted to public hospitals are not required to pay the full cost of their treatment in advance. They only have to pay the ticket moderateur, which is the proportion of expenses not reimbursed under the sickness insurance policy.
If you are already partly covered by French social security, it might be worth considering an additional insurance plan.
Many French people have a mutuelle, which plays the portion of their medical bills not covered by social security. Your employer may already have an arrangement with a mutuelle, and the fees for this will automatically be deducted from your paycheck at the end of the month.
If you are entitled to the French social security health care system, then you could almost do without private insurance. However, if you prefer speaking in English, especially when facing a serious illness, then you might prefer to go with private insurance. Also, if you prefer to go home in case of serious illness, or an accident, then you should definitely take insurance.
Private Health Insurance
Getting health insurance in France seemed like a daunting procedure before Roy Cox, a British expatriate who represents BUPA in France explained how things work. Cox emphasises you shouldn't worry if you can't afford private insurance, the quality of French health facilities is superb.
However, there are many insurance companies that have policies for expatriates. BUPA is very helpful about answering questions and coming up with solutions and has an allowance for travel coverage that extends to the US. Individual travel cover allowance is for £100 and for families it is £160. There is a new company scheme that caters for companies with as few as three employees to large companies, which will give travel coverage in their country of residence. There is also a Gold Plan that covers the cost of medications.
BUPA has excellent student plans. They have the best private plans for sports coverage such as flying, climbing, and diving, which are all covered within the policy. Both British and American students are eligible for this plan. An average price for a student age 21 is around €26 per month whereas a student of 25 can expect to pay around €39 per month. Some students wonder why they should get health insurance, because they are healthy. Cox stressed that health insurance is not for routine illness, it is for an emergency. You have to worry about the worst happening. You don't want to get Lupus and be stuck with an astronomical bill to pay. For more information call BUPA at 04 93 77 16 48 or visit their web-site at http://www.bupa.com
The company ASA, based in the US, offers worldwide insurance programs for groups and individuals. They specialise in U.S. citizens moving, living, or travelling frequently abroad. They also give on line quotes and offer helpful answers to questions such as: will coverage continue in effect while travelling or moving to another country? The ASA quotes in this article are based on a $1,000 deductible for the Comprehensive Cover, and a $2,000 deductible for the Prestige category. For more information call ASA at 001 602 753 1333 or visit their web-site at http://www.asaincor.com
International Private Health-care also provides worldwide coverage. They have a special accident protection policy. All nationalities including overseas residents can be covered by the Worldwide Multi-Trip Travel Insurance Plan. They advertise rapid claims benefits, but you should always beware of such promises.
William Russell offers three plans, with optional cover for travel and personal accident insurance. They have plans available for expatriates of all nationalities and give you complete freedom to choose where you are treated. If someone doesn't submit a claim for several years, then they remain in the age category of their last claim. For example, a 30-year-old who hasn't submitted a claim since he was 25 still receives the rate for a 25-year-old. William Russell was awarded International Health Provider of the Year by the Financial Times. For more information call William Russell at 0044 1483 772245 or visit their web-site at http://www.william-russell.co.uk
Europe Assistance also offers a worldwide health-care program. Although, if your home country is the U.S., coverage may only be continued for up to four months once you return to the U.S. There are several plans to choose from, including a comprehensive plan with emergency medical transfers, dental treatment, and routine health care and hearing aids. Europe Assistance was formed in France and is geared towards UK expatriates. It also offers a very helpful relocation service through its subsidiary Settler International. They are the official assistance company for the Olympics and have their own planes and doctors. For more information call Europe Assistance at 0044 1444 442291 or visit their web-site at http://www.europassistance.com
PPP provides an International Health Plan for expatriates, mostly UK nationals. The Prestige Option provides up to £4000 per year for pregnancy and childbirth, but the member needs to be with PPP for 10 months before they can receive coverage. They do have a unique cash benefit option. If a person is being cared for in a state facility where they don't need the insurance coverage, then they give the member a cash benefit of £100 per night. If you pay for European coverage, then you will get world coverage while travelling abroad for limited amounts of time. A 24-hour help-line is a great resource for those in France who are panicked about their ulcers and too hysterical to try speaking in French! For more information call PPP at 0044 1892 508911 or visit their web-site at www.ppphealthcare.co.uk
Expacare's health-care plan offers three levels of cover: Standardcare, providing a million pounds worth of major medical cover, Executive Care, a middle-range program, and Specialcare, covering in-patient and outpatient services. They also offer maternity care and routine dental treatment. At both levels, policy-holders have access to a 24-hour emergency assistance service operated by leading assistance provider SOS of Geneva, which is multi-lingual. All occupations are covered, and the policies are available to all age groups and to expatriates of all nationalities. Expacare has recently expanded its claims handling procedure. It is now handled by a specialist medical loss adjuster who offers multi-currency settlement with a policy of turning properly documented claims around within seven working days. American Express card-holders are eligible for a special insurance program which is discounted, debited from your account, and offers automatic renewal.
Outpatient treatment, home nursing, maternity and ophthalmic cares are all extras for which you can expect to pay more. You may also want to look at whether your health plan covers complementary therapies such as acupuncture and homeopathie. Expacare was recently featured on Panarama. For more information call ExpaCare at 0044 1483 717800 or visit their web-site at http://www.expacare.net
International Health Insurance Denmark is particularly reliable for its maternity coverage. They cover expatriates of all nationalities, those living in several foreign countries as well. The programs cover routine work as well such as dental. The insurance is valid for life, no matter how old or ill you become. They have a global network, including offices in Japan, Bolivia, Nice and the Isle of Man. For more information call International Health Insurance Denmark 00 45 33 15 30 99 or visit their web-site at http://www.ihi.dk
If you still can't choose a health company, you should e-mail Medibroker. It is a global brokerage company that finds health insurance providers for the client. They usually make a blend of perhaps two or three companies in order to find an ideal plan for the client. They are based entirely on the web. This is a great plan for those of you who are comfortable with the web and want to hand over the process of finding health insurance to someone else. Their services are completely free. However, they do get a commission from the health insurance company they sell to you. For more information call MediBroker at 0044 1435 867484 or visit their web-site at http://www.medibroker.com
Primary providers do not provide coverage for pre-existing conditions. If you have a pre-existing condition, it will not be covered by health insurance.
Maternity coverage is not usually covered with most health insurance plans. It is often excluded because it is the choice of the client. The French social security plan is best for those who require maternity coverage, in combination with a mutual plan. Otherwise, there are usually gold plans that can be subscribed to, such as PPP. In France, there are a number of public hospitals which specialise in maternity and which are considered to be the safest place for births. They have all of the equipment such as incubators in the case of premature birth. If you want real comfort, you should go the American Hospital in Paris or the Princess Grace Clinic in the Cote d'Azur. They are used to expatriate clients, and make them feel at home there. But you might not be reimbursed 100% of what you pay, even with a private policy.
Some Americans might be shocked by the standard of hygiene in public hospitals. One British woman says, "I spent three weeks in one when I gave birth to premature twins. Although I was in a special unit for premature babies. I had to bring her own towels and soap and was advised to bring flip-flops because the showers were so filthy! No one cleaned my room while I was there and I ended up having to do it myself"
You might consider buying your medications in France instead of having them shipped to you from the States. An American says, "I had several hundred dollars worth of medications shipped to me in France, which are still sitting in the customs office of Orly Airport, two months later. I found out in the meantime that medications in France are a fraction of the cost that they are in the States."
If you don't have any insurance whatsoever in France and are not entitled to French social security, you won't be left for dead. One American girl fell down the stairs in a museum, and cut her head open. She panicked because she didn't have any insurance at all. The ambulance took her straight to the hospital; they sewed her up and told her to come back in a week for a check-up. They never asked her for her insurance card or even her credit card! In fact, the whole bill came to about €50. In the United States it probably would have been $3000.
These rates are based on worldwide cover, which is the most expensive option. There are options for Europe/UK exclusively as well, which are much less expensive. There are usually standard cover options, which are even less expensive than comprehensive cover options.