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Can you consult a medical specialist without seeing your GP in France?

We explain the advantages of using France’s so-called ‘coordinated healthcare pathway’

Usually people in France see a GP before going to a health specialist Pic: Andrei_R / Shutterstock

You can consult a health specialist without first seeing a GP in France but it could – depending on the type of specialist and your insurance coverage – cost you more. 

The process is usually as follows:

You have an illness or an injury, say, for example, you have injured your knee. You should normally go to see your designated GP (médecin traitant). 

There is a system of designated doctors in France where you choose (in agreement with the doctor) a personal GP in order to benefit from lower fees and more informed health care. Read about this in our article here: Why having a designated GP in France saves you money

If you do not have a designated GP, you can still get a consultation with a doctor in your area but it could cost more and/or you may be more poorly reimbursed. 

Read more: How can I find an English-speaking GP near me in France?

Your GP will note your knee injury and then may send you to a specialist, such as a physiotherapist. In this way you will be considered to be on the ‘coordinated healthcare pathway’ (parcours de soins coordonnés).

Being on a parcours de soins coordonnés means better state reimbursement rates for treatment. 

Fees for seeing a specialist while on the ‘coordinated healthcare pathway’

Visits to a specialist on the ‘pathway’ can be one of two kinds: suivi régulier (if you are expected to be seeing the specialist on an ongoing basis) or avis ponctuel (for a one-off expert opinion).

A sector 1 specialist can charge a fee of €30 for a suivi régulier consultation (note that certain specialisms fall outside this and have specific set fees, such as a psychiatrist, whose basic rate for suivi régulier is €50.20, or a cardiologist, €51).

Sector 1 means a professional who applies the standard rates set out by France’s social security. A sector 2 specialist can charge above these rates. There are more doctors and specialists in sector 1 in France but sector 2 health professionals are not uncommon. 

If you go to a sector 1 specialist, 70% of the €30 will be covered by the basic social security healthcare coverage, meaning €21 is covered, with €9 that is not covered, known as  the ticket modérateur.

In actual fact there is, in most cases, also a €1 levy on any medical consultation, known as the participation forfaitaire, which is also not state-reimbursed

The €9 ticket modérateur will be covered for people who have top-up health insurance policies, commonly referred to as mutuelles. This means that in the end they will only be out of pocket for the €1 participation forfaitaire. 

Fees for seeing a specialist while outside the ‘coordinated healthcare pathway’

For a consultation with a sector 1 specialist outside the ‘pathway’, the doctor may charge more  – up to €35  –  however to complicate things further, basic French healthcare will only calculate a reimbursement against €25 of this, and then only at a rate of 30%.

This means that out of a €35 fee the state would cover only €7.50, minus the €1 participation forfaitaire, leaving€28.50. 

Mutuelle policies do not compensate for penalties linked to going outside the health pathway if they are of a so-called ‘responsable’ kind, which is the vast majority of them. 

This means if you see a sector 1 specialist without referral you will not obtain more than the €9 reimbursement you would have obtained for seeing one ‘in the pathway’.

Exceptions for certain specialists

There are some exceptions where you can go directly to a specialist without first seeing your GP and still be considered as being on the ‘coordinated healthcare pathway’. 

This includes if you have a long-term illness (affection de longue durée) and see a certain specialist regularly or if you are going to see:

  • A gynaecologist
  • an ophthalmologist
  • a psychiatrist
  • a dentist, orthodontist, dental specialist (un stomatologue)

There are also exceptions linked to emergencies or being away from home.

Related stories

Explainer: How French residents can access healthcare in UK on trips

Eight facts to understand France’s issue of ‘medical deserts’

Why your health reimbursements in France may not be arriving

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