Guide to French Health System

5. Assistance with Health Costs

  1. Introduction
  2. Who is Entitled?
  3. How Much do you Pay?
  4. How to Apply

5.1. Introduction

Unlike in the UK and certain other countries, the social insurance based health service is not entirely free at the point of delivery. .

Despite the overwhelming majority of costs being covered by taxation, it remains a system in which the State is responsible for only a proportion of your health treatment costs, with a voluntary insurance system which sits alongside to pick up those charges not met by the social insurance charges.

Even here there are some exceptions, for major illnesses are fully covered and those on a low income are also entitled to 100% cover.

In addition, those of modest means who hold a complementary ('top-up') health insurance policy are entitled to get assistance towards the costs of such a policy.

In the past the two schemes that have provided support based on income were called CMU Protection Complémentaire (CMU–C) and the Aide au paiement d'une Complémentaire Santé (ACS).

In both cases, the receipt of either of these aides means that for the patient there is:

  • No consultant surcharges, known as dépassements d’honoraires;
  • No payment to the doctor/hospital for treatment, due to the use of a direct payment system called tiers payant'
  • Exemption from the €1 obligatory patient charge, called the participation forfaitaire;
  • Reduction or exemption from charges for spectacles, dentistry, and auditory care.

In 2019 the government consolidated these arrangements into a single scheme called the Complémentaire Santé Solidaire (CSS), which offers the same entitlements.

Under the CCS scheme, if your income is below a certain threshold you can obtain free health treatment, as was the case at present for those entitled to CMU-C; if it is around 35% higher than the threshold, you will only need to make a contribution of up to €1 per person/day towards a complementary 'top-up' policy,

In effect, the State itself offers a complementary policy, although the voluntary insurers remain administrators.

Where you obtain 100% cover it is called 'complémentaire santé solidaire sans participation financière'; where you are required to make a financial contribution it is called 'complémentaire santé solidaire avec participation financière'

5.2. Who is Entitled?

Access to the schemes is available to anyone legally resident in France, whether retired, employed or working.

Although post Brexit those with an S1 appeared to have lost their entitlement, it has since been reinstated. The British Embassy in France state: "We can confirm that this benefit is once again open to eligible UK Nationals registered within the French healthcare system, including those of you with a UK S1 form."

If you are eligible, application is made on behalf of the whole household, not on an individual basis.

In order to be eligible your income must be below a threshold. The income thresholds for the period 1st April 2024 to 1st April 2025, for each element of the scheme, are as follows.

Those whose income is below the threshold in the first column pay no charges (Sans Participation), whilst those in second column pay a small charge (Avec Participation Financière).

Household Size Sans Participation Avec Participation Financière
One Person <€10,116 <€13,724
Two People <€15,249 <€20,586
Three People <€18,298 <€24,703
Four People <€21,348 <€28,820

The threshold is increased by €4,066 or €5,490 (as applies) for each additional person.

However, the test of resources is not entirely that simple, for if you are an owner-occupier without a mortgage your income will be increased by a fixed sum (forfait) per month. Single persons are subject to a forfait of €76,28 a month (€915 a year) and couples to €152.57 a month (€1,830 a year), with increases for larger households. (2024/25)

Accordingly, an owner-occupied couple with an income of €15,000 per year without a mortgage will be assessed as having an income of €16,830.

The reference period for determination of your total income is the previous 12 months.

5.3. How Much do You Pay?

Where you do not obtain entitlement to 100% cover (that is to say, you are in the second column), the amount of the monthly contribution is calculated according to the age of each member of your household on January 1st of the year in which you are granted the right to assistance, as follows (2023/24):

Age 'Participation Financière'
Up to 29 Years €8
30-49 Years €14
50-59 Years €21
60-69 Years €25
70+ Years €30

So, for example, for a family with a 51-year-old parent and two dependent children aged 16 and 22, their contribution would be €21 per month for the 51-year-old and €8 per month for each of the children, giving a total of €37 per month (€444 a year).

A household composed of two people, one 67 years old and the other 72 years old, would pay €55 per month (€660 a year), i.e. €25 per month for the 67 year old and €30 per month for the 72 year old.

There is an on-line Simulator available to assess whether you might be eligible.

If you already have a voluntary health policy, and your application is successful, you will transfer to the CSS and pay less in premiums, although in a small number of cases the scope of your cover may be lower. You can retain your existing insurer to administer the CSS, or have it administered through your local health authority, the CPAM.

5.4. How to Apply

In order to apply you can either do so on-line, using your 'assurance maladie' account. If you do not have an account you can set one up at Ameli, the on-line health system.

However, the application process is a herculean task, so for most applicants it may be better to apply direct to your local health authority, completing the application form and sending in to your local health authority (CPAM) or visiting their offices.

The application form and accompanying notice provide details of the documentation that you will need to provide. It includes, most importantly, an Avis d'impôt ou avis de situation déclarative à l'impôt (ASDIR), which you should normally receive when you have completed your annual tax declaration. It is not your tax notice.

You can also approach your voluntary (top-up) health insurance provider to assist you with the application, if you have such a policy. They are administrators of the complémentaire santé solidaire avec participation financière, although not all insurers are participants.

The health authority have two months to consider your application. If successful it is backdated to the date of your application, although it is possible to apply it retrospectively in the event of hospitalisation.

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