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The second most important document you will need when travelling to France, after your passport, is your European Health Insurance Card, or EHIC, which entitles visitors from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland to receive medical treatment at reduced cost, and sometimes free of charge, from doctors, dentists, and hospitals affiliated with the French state-run healthcare system, L’Assurance Maladie. This will include treatment for illness or accident, as well as for chronic illnesses and pre-existing conditions, and even maternity care, as long as this treatment or care was not the principal reason for travel. It does not cover repatriation to the UK should it be necessary, and for this and other types of non-covered costs it is essential to have in place a separate type of private health cover. Travellers to France from outside the EEA must establish whether any reciprocal agreement for medical cover is in place between their home country and France, and if not must have private health insurance.
The EHIC replaces the old E111 form and has been in use since January 2006. It is valid for up to 5 years, and is applied for online. With the EHIC, you are guaranteed medical care on the same basis as an insured resident of France, but you must ensure you consult a physician or visit a hospital that is “conventionné”, that is, part of the state system. Consultations and treatment from private doctors or at private hospitals are not covered under the EHIC.
Most non-urgent trips to the doctor will take place at the local “cabinet” or surgery, which can be found in even the smallest villages. The cost of a consultation with a general practitioner is usually 21 €; a specialist will often charge 25 €. These fees are payable directly to the doctor, who will issue the patient with a signed treatment form known as the “feuille de soins”, and of course with any prescriptions, which French doctors tend to be very fond of providing. Costs can be reclaimed from NHS’ Overseas Healthcare Team upon your return to the UK. Give them a call on 0191 218 1999 and advise them of having medical costs to reclaim. Pending approval of the claim, they will reimburse up to 70% of doctors’ and dentists’ fees paid, and between 15% and 100% of prescription fees paid, assuming the prescriptions were filled at a pharmacy within the state healthcare system, and they are on the list of “reimbursable pharmaceutical products”.
If you need to be admitted to hospital, provided you are able to choose a hospital registered to provide state healthcare, your EHIC will save you from having to pay any refundable costs in advance. You will only have to contribute around 20% towards the cost of your treatment, and in some cases it will be free of charge. There is an in-patient hospital charge of 16 € per day, and if you are admitted to hospital for any major medical treatment there is a flat-rate charge of 18 €, in addition to the daily hospital charge or the 20% co-payment. Don’t forget: the numbers to call for emergency medical help are 15 or 112.
Applying for an EHIC card for yourself and your family is simple, either via www.ehic.org.uk , the automated EHIC application service on 0845 606 2030, or your can download a PDF appication form from the website. You need to provide full name, date of birth, and National Insurance number for each application, and you should normally have the card within seven days. If while in France your card is lost or stolen, you can apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC), which will give you the same cover until your return – call the NHS Overseas Health Care Team on +44 191 218 1999.
www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/healthcarefrance for more information
From our February 2012 newsletter