You are here : Version anglaise > Healthcare > About health insurance

About health insurance

Reimbursement of healthcare expenses

Even if you are eligible for universal healthcare cover under the French social security scheme, you will have to pay up front for doctor consultations. If you have not yet received your healthcare card (“Carte Vitale”), the doctor will give you a form called a “feuille de soins” to complete and send to the healthcare system (CPAM) to claim reimbursement.

The social security scheme only partially reimburses expenses. Reimbursement rates vary depending on the type of treatment but are usually around 60% to 70% of the fee set by the social security scheme. Pharmacy expenses are reimbursed from 15% to 65% depending on the type of drug.

Given that the social security scheme only reimburses part of the total cost, we strongly recommend you take out private supplementary health insurance (“mutuelle”), especially if you have children or need special medical care. Private health insurance supplements social security reimbursements, avoiding onerous expenses for unexpected dental care or hospitalization for example. For further information about private supplementary health insurance.


Seeing a doctor

In France, everyone is free to choose their own doctor. General practitioners can be consulted regarding any health problem. If your problem is more specific, you can also consult a specialist. However, the French healthcare system requires that you first see a general practitioner who refers you to a specialist. Only dentists, ophthalmologists and gynecologists can be consulted without a referral.

In France, there are two types of practitioners (general practitioners and specialists):
  • State-certified doctors ("médecins conventionnés"): have signed an agreement with the French national healthcare system. Most doctors in France fall into this category. People covered by the French national healthcare system, or a private health insurance scheme based upon reimbursement rates set by the healthcare system, benefit from a higher rate of reimbursement when consulting this type of practitioner.
  • Non-state-certified doctors ("médecins non-conventionnés"): have not signed an agreement with the French healthcare system and the system does not reimburse their fees. However, your complementary or private health insurance may cover these expenses.
The healthcare system website AMELI provides a list of all doctors and specialists and their certification type in order to avoid unpleasant surprises regarding fees.
You can also search for doctors and specialists on the Doctolib website by expertise and location. They can be filtered according to the languages they speak. You can also see the type of fee each generalist/specialist applies on their profile and make an appointment online.


In France, drugs can only be purchased at a pharmacy. There are two types:
  • Over-the-counter drugs: are sold at pharmacies and do not require a doctor’s prescription. If you are sick or injured but were unable to consult a doctor, a pharmacist can advise you which of these drugs to take. They are not reimbursed by the French healthcare system. Prices may vary from one pharmacy to another.
  • Prescription drugs: can only be purchased at pharmacies on presentation of a doctor's prescription. These drugs are reimbursed by the French healthcare system, but the rate of reimbursement varies.

Dossier Médical Partagé (DMP): Shared Medical Record

The « Dossier Médical Partagé » has been implemented by the French Healthcare System. Information from your different medical appointments in France is gathered on your Carte Vitale: medical history of the 24 previous months, results of your medical exams (x-rays, biological analysis…), pre-existing medical history (allergies, pathologies…), hospitalization reports, wishes regarding the end of your life, emergency contacts.

Creating your DMP is not mandatory and will have no impact on your medical fees reimbursement. However, it can be usefull if you need to change doctor regularly. In case of emergency and call to 15 SAMU (Service d’Aide Médicale Urgente), a medical practitioner will be able to access you file in order to deal with the situation at best. You will have access to your own DMP and will be able to change access authorizations whenever you want.

If you want to create your DMP you can do it in a pharmacy, at the CPAM or directly online.

Check the DMP website for more information.

On-duty pharmacies

In France, nominated pharmacies are open outside regular opening hours and on holidays for drugs in the event of an emergency. Drugs purchased at such pharmacies may be more expensive. To locate the on-duty pharmacy nearest you, consult the website or call the helpline on 3237 (24/7).


The French hospital system includes both public and private hospitals (clinics). All public hospitals and certain state-certified clinics have signed an agreement with the French national healthcare system. As a result, hospitalization costs in a public institution receive higher reimbursement from the social security scheme than costs in a private institution.

Consult the list of public hospitals in Lyon
Consult the list of public hospitals in Saint-Étienne

Private insurance

If you are not eligible for universal healthcare cover under the French social security scheme, the following options are available to you:
  • Keep your affiliation to the healthcare system in your last country of residence if it covers healthcare in France.
  • Take out private health insurance in your home country to cover health expenses during your stay in France for you and your family.
  • Take out private health insurance in France.
We recommend you compare private health insurance rates before relocating, as they differ greatly from one country to another.

Université de Lyon healthcare awareness campaign

In collaboration with the Région Auvergne Rhône-Alpes, the Assurance Maladie and the CROUS, the Université de Lyon is launching a campaign targeting students. This campaign aims at improving their knowledge of healthcare in France and encourage them to take care of their health.

More information about Université de Lyon healthcare campaign