What Happens When You’re Sick in France

I often pride myself on the fact that I can answer a lot of administrative questions about life in France. I know how to get a social security number, how to rent an apartment, how to pay taxes, how to open a bank account and even, how to get French nationality. However, this past week when I fell ill for the first time in over a year, I realised that I didn’t have all the information I needed and it was time to ask for some advice!

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I happen to be one of those very fortunate people who doesn’t get sick very often, which is great, but it also means that I haven’t been to the doctor very much. We recently moved into a new apartment and my GP (médecin traitant) is still where we used to live, almost an hour away from where we are now. This week, when I caught a virus, I couldn’t get an appointment with my GP straight away so I decided to go to another doctor in my town.

I’d heard that if I didn’t go to my registered GP I wouldn’t be fully reimbursed. However, in my case I was going to a new doctor who would subsequently become my new GP so I wanted to know what I was entitled to. Finding this information online was almost impossible, so I decided to give CPAM a call to get some answers.

So here is what they said:

  • If you do not go to your registered GP you will not be fully reimbursed by the social security. In fact, you will only be reimbursed 30% instead of the usual 70%. Unfortunately, when you are in the process of changing doctors there is no way to avoid this one time occurrence.
  • Your private insurance WILL reimburse you the same as they usually do, which in my case is the remaining 30% meaning my visits to my GP are usually 100% free.
  • For any medicine prescribed, seeing your doctor or another doctor should not affect the price you have to pay for the medicine. It all depends on the type of medicine prescribed and what your private insurance covers.

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I also asked about sick pay and here is what they said:

  • You must be sick for more than 3 days to receive any sick pay, meaning that you will only receive sick pay starting from the fourth day.
  • In France sick pay is 50% of your salary and this is the same for all employees in all companies.
  • However, some companies will offer to pay more, it really depends on the company’s policy. You should check your contract to find out if you are entitled to more.

Some other important things to remember are:

  • If you are off work sick you MUST get a doctor’s note, if not your work will mark it down as an unjustified absence which can cause issues with your employer and any possible future employers.
  • Always try and see your GP so that you can get fully reimbursed, even if it’s the next day or the day after. You can always explain to your doctor that you have been off work since the beginning of the week, he/she can backdate the arrêt de travail. 
  • Worst case scenario, go to a walk in centre or see another doctor. The most important thing is that you get a doctor’s note so you can legally be off work.
  • If it’s an emergency, you can ask the replacing doctor to tick the urgent box and then you will be fully reimbursed by the social security.

I’ve learnt a lot this last week whilst being ill and I hope this blog post will help answer any questions or doubts you may have about being sick in France and what you should do if you fall ill! Bonne rétablissement!

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