Spas offering luxury weekends or a day’s pampering, are scattered all across France but luxury and luxuriating is not always the point. Natural spring water is credited with such healing powers that in many cases, ‘la sécu’ picks up the bill for a experience lasting three weeks.
In France patients have the right to go to one ‘cure’ per year
Reimbursements range from 65% to 100% depending on their resources and pathology. In certain circumstances, ie. when the patient is underage, or needs a carer, or cannot travel alone, a person accompanying a patient can also be reimbursed. Some people with chronic conditions go every year. (People undergoing cures are called ‘curistes’, by the way.)
GPs in France can prescribe three weeks (18 days to be exact, it cannot be any shorter) at a thermal treatment centre for patients with a wide range of complaints: arthritis, rheumatism, skin diseases, digestive problems, stress, obesity, breathing difficulties, and almost anything else you can imagine.
Around half a million adults and children a year are sent to the massive range of stations thermales offering ‘cures’ all around the country.
Usually they are sent to the nearest centre specialising in their particular pathology; patients do not have much leeway for choice, although they can discuss it with their GP before it is prescribed. In order to be reimbursed, a prescribed ‘cure’ has to be undertaken at a centre ‘conventionné’, and there is a certain amount of form filling to be done before you set off.
Although they are often in the same spa towns, and sometimes even in the same buildings, thermal centres offering medical ‘cures’ do not have much in common with the grand luxury spas offering wellness and fitness treatments at (if you will excuse the pun) eye-watering prices.
They can be quite Spartan, and some of them even operate a rule of silence during treatment hours.
On the other hand, all expenses can be paid including transport and accommodation, and many people will tell you that taking the waters eased their health problems substantially. For more information, have a look at the Ameli website.
For a thermal cure, take a look at Les Curistes.
Going on a ‘cure’ is more popular during the summer months. Curistes spend all day having treatments but the evenings are their own, and they get Sundays off to enjoy attractions like the theatre, opera, and the casino as well as local restaurants, concert halls and museums – which is what makes them great destinations even if you are not a curiste.