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Essential holiday healthcare card

IF you live in France and are heading abroad on holiday, you need an up-to-date Carte Européenne d’Assurance Maladie

Since 2004, the Carte Européenne d’Assurance Maladie (CEAM) has replaced the old E111 form. This card must be renewed each year and gives people normally covered by the French healthcare system the same cover as local residents in the country they are visiting or travelling through – with free or reduced-cost care. Every member of the travelling party – including young children – should have one.

It is the equivalent of the EHIC issued in the UK and is not the same as travel insurance. It is worth noting that Britons living in France but receiving a UK state pension or long-term incapacity benefit still have their healthcare covered by the UK NHS through an EHIC card.

To obtain a French CEAM, you need to apply at least a fortnight before your departure date. If you have online access to www.ameli.fr you can request the card there by logging in and going to the “Vos demandes” section.

Alternatively you can call 3646 or you can get the card from your local Cpam. No documentary proof is needed – the card will be issued automatically assuming you are registered. If you have left it too late, the Assurance Maladie can issue a provisional certificate that lasts three months.

If you are taken ill and need to go to a doctor, pharmacy or hospital while on holiday, you will not have to pay anything, or anything you do pay will be reimbursed by that country’s social security fund.

If you forget the card and need medical attention, or you use a private doctor or forget to ask for a refund while there, you should get your medical costs reimbursed by the Cpam on your return, but you must keep all your receipts and submit them along with a form, S3125, available from the www.ameli.fr website. Refunds will be based on the French rates.

The Assurance Maladie recommends you check how much cover your mutuelle (top-up health insurer) gives on foreign healthcare. It says medical insurance is important to cover unexpected costs. If your card is lost or stolen while on holiday and you need urgent cover, telephone (00 33) 811 70 3646.

If you are a UK state pensioner, and therefore need a British EHIC instead of a French CEAM, this is provided free by the NHS. Fill out the form at www.ehic.org.uk

Alternatively, applications can be made by post using the form EHICE which can be obtained from The Pension Service on 00 44 191 218 7777 or, for those on incapacity benefit, the Department for Work and Pensions on 00 44 191 218 1999.

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