Digital carte Vitale: Where, how and when is this used in France?

We explain how trials of an app version are being extended in October. We also answer frequently asked questions about cartes Vitales for residents in France

22 September 2021

A carte Vitale enables you to obtain healthcare reimbursements easily Pic: shutterstock.com / Pixavril

By Joanna York

A smartphone app version of the French health card, trialled already in Rhône and Alpes-Maritimes, is to be trialled in a further 10 departments.

The trial will get underway this autumn in preparation for the digital version of the carte Vitale being rolled out across France in 2023.

This follows the digitisation of many services in France in recent years, including tax declarations, fine payments, declarations of unemployment status and applications for benefits.

Known as the e-carte d’assurance maladie, the system works on a smartphone app called appCV.

Where is the digital carte Vitale being trialled?

The digital carte Vitale has been trialled so far in Rhône and Alpes-Maritimes.

From October 1, 2021 to December 31, 2022, it will also be available in these 10 additional departments: 

  • Bas-Rhin
  • Gironde
  • Hérault
  • Loire-Atlantique
  • Nord
  • Paris
  • Puy-de-Dôme
  • Saône-et-Loire
  • Sarthe
  • Seine-Maritime

How can I set up a digital carte Vitale?

The digital carte Vitale is available as a mobile app. 

People in participating departments are sent a letter from their Cpam state health insurance body asking if they would like to take part in the trial. They are then able to download the app onto their smartphone via Google Play or the Apple Store.

To complete installation, participants need to submit photos of their physical carte Vitale and proof of identity (such as a passport) into the app.

They will also need to provide an identity photo (you can take one yourself on your phone), and to create a four-digit secret code, in order to open the application for future use.

Where can I use the digital carte Vitale?

When the app is installed and the participant has provided all necessary identifying information, they can use the digital carte Vitale with participating healthcare professionals such as GPs, dentists and pharmacists.

However they will still need a physical card, as not all professionals will have volunteered for the trial.

To use the digital carte Vitale, users must open the app using the four-digit secret code, tap the ‘Flux’ button, then place their smartphone on the digital reader provided by the healthcare professional.

Once connected, the application will allow access to all relevant information about the person’s healthcare reimbursements and will function in the same way as a physical card, to permit transfer of information to Cpam for reimbursement of medical costs. 

Participants can also give permission for another user to have access to their digital card for 30 days. 

For example, a parent with a child registered on their carte Vitale could allow another carer access in order for the carer to be able to take the child to a medical appointment.

Who will be able to access data via the digital carte Vitale?

As with data collected through using the physical carte Vitale system, data from the app will be stored by the Caisse nationale d’assurance maladie (Cnam).

This includes photos and identity documents used to set up the app.

The Cnam (the national umbrella body for the Cpams), holds this data securely, as it does with the physical cards, to help fight against carte Vitale fraud. 

Fraudulent use is said to be more common with older physical cards which do not feature ID photos (and are still valid until the holder applies to replace them because of loss or theft etc).

What is a carte Vitale? 

A carte Vitale enables the holder, aged 16 or over, to obtain national health insurance reimbursements (ie medical cost coverage). It is a credit-card sized card that has a microchip, which contains the user’s information and entitlement data.

This enables the holder to recoup a certain percentage of the costs of any healthcare, such as visiting a GP. Private top-up health insurance can be purchased to cover any outstanding amount but having this is not obligatory.

Unlike in the UK, for example, a GP visit in France can charge €25 upfront but by presenting your carte Vitale at the time, this will later be reimbursed to your bank account several days later. For holders it replaces the earlier system of paper feuilles de soin, which the patient had to complete and send to their Cpam.

You are eligible to apply for a carte Vitale if you are a resident and are affiliated to the French social security system.

How do I get one? 

Before being able to obtain a carte Vitale for your reimbursements you need to be affiliated to the French social security system. 

This will vary depending on your situation. For example if you are a British or European citizen old age pensioner in France you will need to present to the local Cpam an S1 form from your country of origin. Anyone working in France, in employment or self-employed, will be affiliated as part of the process of registering to pay social charges on work income.

Early-retirees may apply to join the French system on residency grounds (depending on their incomes an annual fee can be required). Some opt to retain cover on comprehensive private policies instead.

Contact your local Cpam for more information on what is required if in doubt.

If you are in the system, with a French social security number, you may set up an account at ameli.fr and you can apply for a card via your account in the Mes démarches section, under Ma carte Vitale and Commander ma carte Vitale.

The main documents required are a photo and an identity document, both in a digital format.

Alternatively it is possible to apply for a card on paper to your Cpam.

You can follow the status of your application at ameli.fr.

Once you have received your carte Vitale, you should also choose a local GP to be your médecin traitant (personal family doctor) to ensure you obtain full reimbursements.

What data does a carte Vitale hold?

No medical information is stored on the card, but it does contain your address and social security number.

How often do I need to update my carte Vitale and why?

You are advised to update your card once a year which can be done at machines in pharmacies or at the Cpam offices. It is planned that this will be unnecessary for the new digital version of the card.

You should also update it if anything significant changes in your details, such as marital status or address.

Other situations where an update is required include pregnancy, changing job if this involves a change of healthcare regime, or becoming covered for the first time for a long-term condition (ALD).

The physical card does not expire.

It is good practice to keep track of your details on your card via ameli.com and check around once a year to make sure all your details are correct.

If you lose your carte Vitale, if it is stolen, or stops working, you can also declare this online at ameli.fr, and apply for a replacement.

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