Upon arrival in France, you will need to register in the French healthcare system by applying for a social security number and a carte Vitale.
Once you have registered and are in the system, you are strongly advised to choose your own personal doctor to follow your healthcare. This doctor is known as your médecin traitant.
This is necessary in most cases to receive the best level of reimbursement payments from the state.
Am I assigned a doctor in France?
Unlike in some other European countries where people are allocated a doctor based on where they live, everyone in France is free to select a GP of their choice (there is no geographical restriction) provided the doctor they want is not fully booked.
You are also free to choose which hospital or clinic you go to for any treatment.
The state insurance system will fund your care on the basis of the medical act or service you receive (unless it is, for example, at an exclusively private institution that has no agreement with the state).
Can I have a médecin traitant if I am not a resident of France?
No, you must be a resident of France to have a médecin traitant.
How do I choose my médecin traitant?
Ideally, you will pick a doctor who knows you and your health conditions best.
During the consultation with the doctor who you want to be your médecin traitant, explain your wish and you will fill out a declaration form together.
If you want to change doctor, you just repeat the process with a new doctor.
What does a médecin traitant do?
Typically, the médecin traitant is the first point of contact for healthcare for most people and the state health cover levels are higher for a consultation with this doctor.
While the doctor will usually be a GP, those suffering from long term illnesses may exceptionally sign up with a specialist as their médecin traitant.
In most cases, it is usual to ask for a referral to a specialist from your GP – if you do not your reimbursements may be worse.
What if I need a specialist doctor?
When your doctor refers you to a specialist doctor, this is known as the médecin correspondant.
This may be for suivi regulier (regular treatment) or avis ponctuel (a one-off opinion) and both the cost of the consultation and the level of reimbursement might be different.
Usually if it is an avis ponctuel the doctor will not ask you to come back. In this case, the specialist may leave it to your GP to prescribe any medicines that the specialist recommends.
If the specialist needs to see you again, or repeatedly, for example due to a chronic (ongoing) condition, this will be suivi regulier and lower tariffs apply.
When do I not need to go via my médecin traitant?
Patients do not need to go via their médecin traitant under certain circumstances, such as common gynaecological procedures, seeing an ophthalmologist, a psychiatrist if you are aged 16-25, or a dentist.
Who should have a médecin traitant?
Everyone aged 16 or more and using the French healthcare system should designate a médecin traitant in order to benefit from the best levels of state reimbursement.
Teenagers aged 16 and 17 need a parent’s permission and a signature.
It is (optionally) possible for a younger child to have a médecin traitant, chosen or declared by a parent or guardian, however in this case there are no financial penalties for not going via this doctor to see another practitioner.
This measure is intended to help keep track of any long-term issues a child may have, such as the early-onset of obesity or learning difficulties.