If you don’t first register with a doctor in France, you risk paying higher doctor fees; this guide explains what you need to register with a doctor in France, or médecin traitant.
Every adult seeking medical attention must choose a primary doctor in France, or médecin traitant. Otherwise, you risk higher healthcare fees and lower reimbursements.
Finding French doctors, especially English-speaking doctors in France, however, is not difficult if you do proper research. This guide explains what you need for seeing a doctor in France and how to find the best doctor for your situation.
COVID-19 in France
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficult time for everyone. Many expats find themselves separated from family and loved ones in their home countries. As a foreigner, it is also sometimes difficult to find critical information regarding coronavirus infection rates, local measures and restrictions, and now, thankfully, vaccinations.
- For general coronavirus information in France, including vaccination schedules and the latest restrictions, visit the official Coronavirus (COVID-19) website
- For dedicated information on how the COVID-19 pandemic affects foreign nationals living in France, visit the French government’s COVID-19 diplomatic website
Conditions for registering with a French doctor
Residents in France – except children 16 and under – must, within the French healthcare system, choose a general practitioner (GP) or primary attending doctor in France (médecin traitant). Higher medical fees apply to those who don’t. In addition, little to no reimbursement for healthcare services from their French health insurance scheme.
The law requiring patients to select a primary French doctor reduces costs and places the responsibility on your French doctor to:
- draft a preventative and curative health plan (parcours de soin) for a patient’s treatment
- maintain records of that treatment
- refer the patient to specialists as needed.
Until this law kicked in, anyone covered by French social security could go to any French doctor or specialist at any time. The old system was indeed simple. However, it encouraged abuse by letting patients consult with several doctors at once without any coordination of treatment.
European citizens can visit any French doctor using their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if they are visiting France temporarily.
How to find a doctor in France
Patients are free to choose their own doctor in France and register with them as their médecin traitant. Primary French doctors are mostly self-employed and work either alone or in group practices. Most French doctors have also signed a convention, a licensing system that doctors voluntarily enter into with the state; if you want a non-general practitioner as your primary doctor in France, you may consider asking about this.
French doctors cannot advertise. Ask your family and friends instead for recommendations, especially if you prefer a doctor that speaks another language. You can also find a service that connects you to English-speaking doctors in France if you are a member.
There is also a growing number of online-only medical services operating in France. These platforms can offer shorter waiting times than traditional doctors and offer many of the services you can expect from in-person treatment. This includes video consultations and prescriptions delivered straight to your door. Online medical services in France include:
Seeing specialists in France
The médecin traitant can refer you onto other French doctors and specialists, but still hold your medical records and coordinate follow-up treatments. If you receive a referral from your médecin traitant, reimbursements are available for around 70% of the costs.
Seeing a doctor in France or a specialist without any referral increases your fees. Reimbursements from the French health insurance scheme are also lower in this case.
However, you don’t need a referral from your doctor in France to see a gynecologist, pediatrician, or ophthalmologist; you can consult them directly; the same applies in special circumstances, for example, in emergencies or if your doctor or locum is absent. If you’re under 26 you can also see a psychiatrist without a referral from primary French doctors.
Exceptions for doctor referrals in France
There are some cases when it’s permissible to skip the call to your primary doctor in France:
- for emergency medical care either at home or while traveling;
- when you’re traveling in France or abroad or your primary French doctor is unavailable (on vacation, for example);
- an appointment with a gynecologist, ophthalmologist, psychiatrist, neuropsychiatrist, neurologist, or dentist – these French doctors can refer your records back to your primary doctor in France, but only with your consent;
- parents do not need to fill out forms for children under 16.
In the case of emergencies, you can also visit a hospital emergency department; see a list of main hospitals in France.
What to do when seeing a doctor in France
After choosing a doctor in France, the doctor’s office gives you a form that you can return to them. It must be signed by both you and your doctor. They will, in turn, submit it to the local Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie (CPAM) to finish the registration. You can also bring your own Déclaration de choix du médecin traitant form (S3704) to your doctor’s office on your first visit. Read more information on the L’Assurance Maladie en Ligne website about how to see a doctor in France.
You have the right to change your primary doctor in France at any time for any reason. Of course, you must fill out the form again with your new doctor.
Every time you visit a French doctor or buy prescribed medicines you’ll receive a fiche de soins; this brown form details your treatments and costs. Many doctors only fill out the bottom part with their details, in which case you must fill out the top part with your own. If you have a permanent French social security number, include that information in your form; if you only have a temporary number, leave that part blank.
You then send everything to your French health insurer. You can include a brief letter detailing your identification number (numéro d’adhérant) and social security number, and make sure you enclose your doctor’s declaration (formulaire de déclaration de médecin traitant), the fiche de soins and a RIB (relevé d’identité bancaire), which is a statement of your bank details.
Cost of doctors in France
Payments for seeing a doctor in France are upfront. There may be some exceptions if a patient carries a carte vitale (national insurance card). Fees vary depending on whether the doctor identifies as a Secteur 1, Secteur 2 or non convetionné medical professional:
- Secteur 1 French doctors charge fixed rates set by social security.
- Secteur 2 French doctors can charge higher fees but within reason as they are bound by law.
- Non convetionné doctors in France are free to dictate whatever amount they desire for all medical services.
Secteur 1doctors currently charge €23 per consultation but prices may vary slightly for children. These rates can also increase if the patient requests other unrelated medical procedures or if a Secteur 1 doctor in France does a home visit.
Some doctors have taken to advertising outside their practice whether they fall under the Secteur 1, Secteur 2 or non convetionné categories. Visit the L’Assurance Maladie website for a full list of rates for Secteur 1 and Secteur 2 French doctors.
Any treatment by a specialist (médecin correspondant) must be coordinated by your primary doctor in France. Fees for a médecin correspondant are usually higher than French doctors, but this will be reimbursed at normal levels if you have a referral. You can read more about cost of doctors in France.
Reimbursement rates for French doctors
As of 2016, everyone is supposed to have filled out a form naming their médecin traitant in order to be reimbursed at the normal 70% level. A ‘participation forfaitaire’ fee of €1 for claims for doctor visits, x-rays, and tests is also payable as a kind of national health tax, which cannot exceed €4 per day or a cap of €50 per person annually. This means your reimbursement payments should equal 70% minus €1. Woman pregnant beyond the six month and children under 18 are exempt from this tax.
Anyone who hasn’t signed up with a primary doctor in France is generally eligible for only 60% reimbursement (minus €1), but you may not be reimbursed at all by either social security, your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), or even additional private health insurance (mutuelle) for treatment by certain specialists without a referral.
Private insurance for medical treatment in France
If you want a higher level of insurance coverage for health treatment in France, or are covered by public health insurance, there are a number of international health insurance companies that offer packages for expats in France, including: