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Understanding a new healthcare system as an expat can be confusing. You may come across terms which you have never heard before and methods that are different from what you are used to. This guide is designed to help you understand the French public healthcare system, specifically the concepts of ‘médecin traitant’ and ‘parcours de soins coordonnés’, and why these are important for your health.

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What is a ‘médecin traitant’?

A ‘médecin traitant’ is the primary doctor that you visit on a regular basis. The term is roughly equivalent to ‘GP’ in the UK and Australia, ‘primary care physician’ in the US, or ‘family doctor’ in Canada. 

In France, you can choose your own ‘médecin traitant’. You do not need to necessarily choose a general practitioner or a local doctor; a ‘médecin traitant’ can be a specialist if you prefer and can be located anywhere in the country. Your family members are not required to all consult the same ‘médecin traitant’. What is important is that your ‘médecin traitant’ is the person you typically go to for your general medical needs.

> Read also: Accessing the French healthcare system as a foreign national

What is the ‘parcours de soins coordonnés’?

There is no specific translation for ‘parcours de soins coordonnés’; it is sometimes referred to in English as ‘coordinated healthcare circuit’. Basically, ‘parcours de soins coordonnés’ refers to the process by which individuals can access the public healthcare system in France through their ‘médecin traitant’. 

Why do you need a ‘médecin traitant’?

It is very important for anyone living in France to choose a ‘médecin traitant’. This is because your healthcare costs can be much higher if you do not have one

Normally, you should visit your ‘médecin traitant’ if you need to see a doctor, and he or she can eventually refer you to a specialist if necessary. If your ‘médecin traitant’ is not available, or if you are away from your home area, you can see a substitute doctor instead.

When you follow this protocol, 70 percent of your healthcare costs will be reimbursed by the French healthcare system (‘Assurance Maladie’). However, if you go directly to another doctor who is not your ‘médecin traitant’, only 30 percent of your costs will be reimbursed. 

In some cases, you might not be able to find a ‘médecin traitant’. If this happens, you can call or visit your local Assurance Maladie office for help.

> Read also: Universal health protection (PUMa), a system available to expats residing in France

Changes to the French Healthcare System

There may be cases where people are unable to get a ‘médecin traitant’. For example, those who have recently moved to France (or moved to another city) may have not yet had time to find one. 

For this reason, the French Social Security Office has recently announced a plan to remove penalties. To receive full reimbursement without penalties, you’ll need to prove that you’ve lost your existing ‘médecin traitant’, or that you have been unable to find one for reasons beyond your control. 

These changes have not been ratified yet, so it is not clear when they will come into effect.

APRIL International’s Supplementary Health Insurance for Expats in France

The French healthcare system often does not cover 100 percent of costs. Supplementary health insurance can offer peace of mind and full coverage to expats living in France. Find out more about our ‘top-up’ health insurance plans and which one could be right for your circumstances.

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