There are hundreds of choices in France when it comes to top-up health insurance, especially if you are an independent worker or a retiree on a foreign pension.
Salaried workers rarely have a choice of provider, but can still refuse the standard option given by their employer if they want to pay for a more attractive deal. Some employers may even pay for half of the premium even if a worker chooses another option.
Similarly, workers on freelance contracts, or retirees on foreign pensions, also have more of a choice of what provider to pick.
Top-up insurance policies (assurance maladie complémentaire) act as extra reassurance on top of existing state healthcare. Residents in France who do not have extra health insurance risk facing hospital bills of thousands in some extreme cases.
Here is how to decide on the best one for you.
Read more: French 'top-up' health insurance explained
If you are in the market for a new top-up health insurance plan, think about the following factors.
Consider your personal needs
Look carefully at what the contract covers, such as eyes, teeth, specialists, or hospitalisation.
Get clear on the compensation amounts and the reimbursement caps.
Pay special attention to existing issues, such as the reimbursement of hearing aids or glasses, if you wear them.
Adeline Fortesa, sales director at comparison website LeLynx, told Le Monde: “Some policies also offer cover in the areas of well-being (alternative medicine) and prevention (reimbursement for sporting activities). This added value can make a difference.”
Some policies may even offer coverages for assistance services (domestic help in the event of hospitalisation or immobilisation, childcare, school support in hospital) but these may lead to a more expensive premium.
Beware of excesses and other exceptions
Look out for the excess amount, i.e. the amount of money the policyholder has to pay when making a claim.
Contracts with systematic excesses and excesses of too high a value should be avoided.
Consider any waiting periods (the period during which the cover taken out does not apply).
Be aware if certain surgeries (considered to be of a ‘comfort’ or cosmetic nature) or certain stays in rest homes are not covered.
Many policies do not cover care required after an accident caused by excessive alcohol consumption or the practice of a sport that is considered dangerous, for example.
Use policy comparison services
Online comparison websites can save time in selecting the best-value contracts that best suit your needs.
In France, these include Assurland, Insurly, Lecomparateurassurance, LeLynx, Lesfurets, Reassurezmoi, and Selectra.
Comparison websites can help you save big on policies. Credit: LeLynx.fr / screenshot
However, be aware that many comparison sites do not offer preferential rates in the same way as a credit broker might, especially if the latter typically offers pre-negotiated rates.
Comparison sites usually collect information from potential policy providers only. The contract is then usually offered at the same rate as if the policyholder had taken out a contract directly with the insurance company.
Compare and contrast regularly for the best rates
Yet, using price comparison sites can sometimes cut your premium amount by as much as 40%, and it is often more likely that new customers will receive the best deals, said Ms Fortesa at LeLynx.
She said: “Insurers offering discounts to long-time loyal customers or those who take out several policies (home, car, health, etc.) are exceptional.
“Some insurers are more competitive on certain types of contracts and much less so on others, and their commercial strategy changes every year... New entrants always benefit from the best conditions. That is why it is always a good idea to check the competition regularly.”
She recommends that policyholders carry out a re-evaluation of their policy and premium every three to four years at the most, to check if they are still getting the best rate.
Policyholders can change their contract at this point if they find a better deal. Similarly, from July 1, 2023, people will be able to end almost all insurance contracts at any time – as long as one year has passed since the policy began.