Welcome to Destination Partners

Health and Support Services for Students in France

Here’s a lowdown on the support services available for you!

The French healthcare system is widely considered to be one of the best in the world. The state health insurance system is generally accessible to foreigners living in France, although there are still circumstances which make private health insurance advisable. Dentistry and private hospital care are usually only available to those with private health insurance. As such, it is highly recommended that all foreigners take out some form of supplementary health cover.

Private healthcare

Despite the country’s high quality of public healthcare, private top-up health insurance is taken out by most foreigners in France. This will usually cover the balance of state healthcare costs or the administrative complexities of treatment, eliminating the need for foreigners to put in any money for co-pay. foreigners who are not from the EEA or EU and do not pay into the French public healthcare system will need to take out comprehensive private healthcare insurance for the duration of their stay in the country.

Pharmacies and medication

GPs and specialists prescribe medicines and other parapharmaceutical products that must then be obtained by the patient from a pharmacy. It is unusual for GPs, except perhaps on night visits, to have any medicines available with them. At pharmacies, the pay-and-get-reimbursed principle applies, with one significant difference. Whereas with doctors’ visits, the patient pays the full amount due and then is reimbursed later minus the percentage he has to pay, with pharmaceuticals the patient pays only the part of the cost that is not taken care of by the state health care system.

Thus, for a typical visit to the pharmacy with a prescription for drugs costing, let’s say, fifty euros, the patient will be charged between zero and fifteen Euros, depending on the nature of the drugs and material prescribed, and the health insurance cover he has. There are four basic rates of reimbursement for medicines: 100%, 65% (the normal rate) 35% and not reimbursed. Complementary health insurance plans (known as les mutuelles) will push these rates up considerably.

Hospitals and emergency rooms

There are two sorts of hospitals in France; generally speaking, these are known as hôpitaux when they are state-run, and cliniques when they are privately run. Most private cliniques are state-approved and can therefore work for the national health service. Many specialists work in both state-run hospitals and private clinics. Since they are self-employed professionals, they can sell their services to whatever hospital or clinic will pay them.

Both GPs and specialists can refer patients for hospital treatment if it is deemed necessary. Within the framework of the health service, they can send them for treatment in either a state-run hospital or a private clinic, whichever they consider to be best for the purpose or to provide the fastest service.

In the framework of the French health care system, patients are only billed for a tiny proportion of the cost of their stay in hospital; the most significant charge that the patient must pay is an 18€ per day hospitalization fee, basically a contribution to the board and lodging provided by the hospital. In most cases, most or all the rest of the bill is paid for by the state health insurance scheme and complementary health programs.

As for emergency rooms, A&E services (les urgences) are part of the national health care system. All cities and large towns have a service known as the SAMU, which is the emergency ambulance service. Paramedics and medics from the SAMU are called out in the event of accident or emergency and provide on the spot assistance before transporting the sick or injured to A&E or other specialized units at the nearest hospital providing them. The SAMU ambulance service is only used for accidents and emergencies. Other routine ambulance work is carried out by private ambulance firms, subcontracted to the state health care system.


There are over 22,000 pharmacies in France, and they are usually open between 9 am to 8 pm, Monday to Saturday. To obtain prescription medicine from a pharmacy, patients will need to bring with them a prescription from their GP or specialist. While prescription medication generally costs less in France than in many other European countries, in most cases the national health system only covers a fraction of its costs. The percentage reimbursed depends on the importance and effectiveness of the medication, but usually, the rate will be at 65%. If you have complementary private health insurance, this may take care of the remaining amount.

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