ABOUT 92% of people have some form of top-up insurance, according to a spokeswoman for the insurers’ body la Mutualité Française, Christelle Cros.
You can find many top-up providers on the internet by searching for mutuelles or complémentaires santé, and health professionals like pharmacists might advise which are popular with customers. Some will have a local office, others are based elsewhere or operate online.
Some firms specialise in helping English-speakers. You can find adverts for many of these in the pages of Connexion.
Few insurers now require a health questionnaire. Costs depend on factors such as age and whether or not you want to add your spouse and children.
In a couple where both partners work they may have policies through their companies. Many firms require staff to use a top-up policy which they subsidise.
Couples can then decide whose policy is best to cover the children.
Policies vary as to their list of garanties - the level of money reimbursed for different kinds of medical services.
Basic ones focus on hospital care not GP visits and medicines, and often have little cover for dentistry and opticians.
The wider the cover you want, the more you will usually have to pay. Some sites make comparisons between firms and provide devis - estimates for different policies.
Garanties are listed with percentages but take note: a 100% figure does not mean you will get all your money back.
The 100% refers to the tarif de base (basic, state-regulated tariff). A so-called secteur 1 doctor has a regulated basic charge of €22 for a GP consultation or €25 if they are a specialist, of which 70% is state-reimbursed.
A 100% garantie reimburses the rest, up to e22. If your doctor charges more than this, you still pay the difference. (These are doctors classed as secteur 2 or honoraires libres who are free to charge more.)
If cover is 200%, the insurance tops up to twice the basic rate (eg. e50 for a specialist). Specialists are often secteur 2 and some charge several times the basic rate. More expensive policies cover frais réels - real expenses - on some of their garanties.
The Mutualité Française represents most bodies that are official mutuelles santé, which are one kind of top-up provider.
They are not-for-profit bodies based on a concept dating to 17th Century workers grouping together to create mutual protection schemes.
Mutuelle is often used as a generic term for top-up health insurance, however policies from private firms are technically assurance complémentaire santé (complementary health insurance), not mutuelles.
According to Ms Cros, some people like mutuelles because of their values. "We don’t put up the premiums to pay shareholders, we just have to balance the books," she said.
In the past one of the benefits of mutuelles was they did not require a health questionnaire, however very few other insurers do these days.
She added they use profits to create their own health services at regulated prices.
Mutuelle holders do not have to use these, but if they do they have nothing to pay up front whereas other people must make advances to use them. Mutuelles are not necessarily cheaper than commercial insurance policies.