Reader question: I was recently invited to go with friends in France to Germany for a holiday but realised that I had no health cover outside of France and so had to cancel the trip. I now learn that there’s a French version of the British Ehic card – I’m sure a lot of people don’t know about it. Would this have covered my trip to Germany?
The French version of the European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) is called the carte européenne d'assurance maladie (Ceam).
This card is free for people in the French healthcare system, lasts for two years and allows you to be covered/reimbursed for medically necessary healthcare during short trips to other EU countries, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Switzerland and the UK.
Bear in mind, however, that if you are a UK state pensioner the UK pays for your healthcare in France and therefore you are not entitled to a Ceam but rather a British Ehic (see more below).
The purpose of the Ceam is to allow you to access healthcare in any of the covered countries in the same way as a local in that country. This means in some instances not having to pay any upfront costs for basic treatments.
The Ceam is for medically necessary healthcare that cannot wait for you to return home, and this can include care for pre-existing conditions.
However it does not replace private travel insurance, which can cover additional elements such as mountain rescue or repatriation or certain private facilities not linked to state healthcare systems.
It also does not cover 100% of costs in situations where this is also the case for standard French healthcare cover. Some private policies can compensate for this.
Claim back healthcare expenses abroad without a Ceam
It should be noted that if you are in the French healthcare system (i.e. you have a carte Vitale) and you do not have a Ceam or you forget to take it with you on holiday, then you can claim back medical expenses incurred abroad on your return to France.
In this way, you will have to first cover the fees upfront and then claim back the costs. French healthcare will usually cover a percentage of the total costs.
If you have an Ameli account, you can claim that reimbursement online here. It is vital that you keep all receipts given for the medical procedures.
Ehics and Ghics for UK state pensioners in France
Since Brexit the UK has introduced a new card called a Global Health Insurance Card (Ghic). This card is generally aimed at people living in the UK who are planning holidays to EU countries and works in a similar way to Ehics.
British state pensioners living in France also have the right to British cards, not a French Ceam.
This could be of interest to our reader – if they are a British pensioner in France – as British S1 holders who were living in France before 2021 and are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement can still have British-issued Ehics.
New ones issued since the end of the Brexit transition period are marked with the letters ‘CRA’ (standing for Citizen’s Rights Agreement).
British S1 holders moving to France have, since 2021, been issued with Ghics instead. These can be used across the EU and Switzerland.
For more information on this, please read our in-depth guide into how French residents can access healthcare in the UK or Europe: How French residents can access healthcare in UK on trips.
Who is eligible for a French Ceam?
If you are in the French healthcare system – you have a carte Vitale – and you are a French resident, you have the right to a Ceam (apart from where your healthcare is paid for by another EU country or the UK).
How much does the Ceam cost?
It is free of charge.
How do you get a Ceam?
Ceams are available to everyone aged 16 and over. You cannot have a family card or use someone else’s; you must have your own.
You should order your Ceam at least 20 days before you plan to travel.
The card will remain valid for two years.
Your Ceam will be given to you by your health insurance association, which in France, for the vast majority of people, will be the Caisse primaire d'assurance maladie (Cpam).
You can request a card online using Ameli or France Connect login details, at this link.
You can also visit your local Cpam office or phone 36 46 in France or +33 811 70 3646 from abroad.
How does the Ceam work?
The Ceam gives you access to health professionals and hospitals in the country you are visiting, without any prior approval, under the same conditions and at the same prices as those insured in the country.
If the service is free for the country's citizens or residents, it will also be free for you. You will have to pay anything up front but you may have to pay any uncovered costs.
If you have to pay for the service, you can request reimbursement:
- Either in the country you are visiting, from the competent health insurance institution of the country you are visiting. Reimbursement is made in accordance with the social legislation and formalities in force in the country concerned.
- Or on return to France. You must keep the invoices and proof of treatment and present them to your health insurance provider, together with the cerfa form n°12267. You can choose to be reimbursed on the basis of the French social security rates or the rates in the country you are visiting. You can also claim this reimbursement online through your Ameli account at this link.