French News Archive

Healthcare in France

EU Questions France over Health Cover Refusals

Wednesday 04 January 2012

The EU is stepping up pressure on France over reports that expats are still being refused health cover.

With many of you taking our advice to complain to the EU about refusal of access to the health system, the European Commission have now written to the French government seeking an explanation.

In a letter to one of the complainants, a copy of which has been sent to us, the Commission states that:

‘The Commission are aware that there are current difficulties for inactive expats in gaining access to the CMU. It was hoped that the issue of the new Circular DSS/DAC/2011/225 would solve such difficulties. However, it seems that inactive expats such as yourselves are being refused access to the CMU. The Commission’s view is that this is not in conformity with the requirements of Article 4 of Regulation (EC) No 883/2004.

The Commission is currently in correspondence with the French Ministère du Travail, de l'Emploi et de la Santé about this issue. We have told the French Ministry that we have received a number of complaints where access to the CMU has been denied by regional health authorities.

The French Ministry has asked for concrete details of the cases where access to the CMU has been denied and where the Commission believes there is a breach of EU rules.’

The letter is interesting on many levels, not least for giving the distinct impression that the Commission may well feel it has been duped by the French government.

At face value the French response appears innocent enough, with the inference that any problems are attributable to a failure in local administration.

However, given the absence of any emphatic statement of commitment to implementation of the EU rules, there are grounds for a less generous view.

We have to remember that the Circular was only issued by the French government in response to infringement proceedings brought by the EU, following the decision by France in 2007 to close the door on early retirees having access to the health system until they had been resident for 5 years.

One quietly sympathetic senior French health official has in fact told us that the Circular was no more than ‘playing for time’. Their words rather echo those said to one of our readers by a local official, who was told to 'read between the lines' in an interpretation of the Circular.

If this is the case then keeping the policy guidance unclear may well have been precisely the intent.

No wonder then that the infringement proceedings have yet to be withdrawn pending an assessment by the EU Commission of implementation of the Circular, and why the French government will continue to be annoyed that this issue will not go away.

Complain, Complain, Complain

With the French authorities making it clear that the burden of proof lies with the Commission to demonstrate non-compliance we urge any EU national having difficulties to send in a formal complaint to the Commission.

If you are refused access you should insist upon a letter in writing from your local CPAM. We know some health authorities are reluctant to issue such self-incriminating evidence, but you have the right to a formal written response to your application for admission and so do not be put off with less.

It is these letters of refusal that remove any conjecture about what is actually taking place, and which can then be used as the backbone of evidence presented by the EU Commission to the French government.

Our previous Newsletters and our Guide to the Health System in France provide more details on the application and appeal process, as well as complaint and contact details for the European Commission.

Do continue to keep us informed about developments so we many continue together to campaign for a resolution of this matter. You can contact us at

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