Although it sounds like it could be a Medical Marijuana Card, the magic green card in France is the Carte Vitale. Ray and I are now card-carrying members; I wish our friends in the US had a card like this…it’s life-changing. Really.
One of the requirements for obtaining a long-term visa is proof of private health insurance for a minimum of three months. When we met with the kind folks at VFS Global to begin the visa process, this was one of the first documents reviewed. And let me tell you, they examined the policy with a fine-tooth comb. Once you are approved for the visa, have registered and lived in France for three months, one can apply for the Carte Vitale which allows access to the French Healthcare System.
We’ve met people who have lived here for years and never applied for their Carte Vitale. Healthcare and prescriptions are much lower than what we are forced to pay in the US. Many choose to pay out of pocket. Example: Six prescriptions for the two of us came to $45, and the pharmacist apologized it was so expensive. When I told him with our insurance in the US, our co-pays for the same medications came to hundreds; I thought he was going to pass out.
The Application Process
My mantra (but we live in France) was recited frequently when preparing our documents to send to CPAM. CPAM stands for Caisse Primaire d’Assurance Maladie, which translated is Private Health Insurance Fund. Being France, there are quite a few documents required, and the easiest part was the application itself.
List of Documents—Two of each
Color copy of your passport signature page
Color copy of the passport page showing your entry into France
Color copy of your French visa from your passport
A translated copy of your birth certificate by an authorized translator
Color copy of your marriage license
A translated copy of your marriage license
A divorce decree if you’re not married and your name doesn’t match your birth certificate. This must be translated as well
Color copy of the (online) visa stamp and registration.
Your RIB (a print out of your bank information…account number, etc.)
Physician Form filled out by your Doctor.
A current copy of EDF Attestation Titulaire de Contract- this is your contact with the electric company.
Copy of your lease or deed to your property
We mailed the packet via LRAR (registered mail) on September 9th. I’ve learned to send everything LRAR within France. One week later, I received confirmation that our packet was in CPAM’s hands.
The Paper Trail
I was warned that CPAM might request the same item twice, so it came as no surprise when we both received a letter from them. They wanted Ray to send a copy of his passport pages and the Physician form.
Do you remember the post about my ‘stunning’ visa photo? Well, they requested another copy of my visa. Enough said.
We sent the envelope off the same day and waited to hear back. One week later, we received notification CPAM had received our envelope, and the following week we received the good news that we were accepted into the system. BIG YAY and much happy dancing.
We received temporary social security numbers that could be used when visiting a doctor, lab, dentist, etc., and the following week we received the paperwork for our permanent cards. Of course, they needed a photo, so off we went to have pictures taken. Mine, of course, was the photo from hell which will be given to every healthcare practitioner I will ever see. Enough said.
After attaching our glamour shots to the form, we mailed them off. We knew it could take several months to receive our permanent cards, so I was shocked to find them in our mailbox when we arrived home from Switzerland. Ray received a 10-page letter regarding his Carte Vitale. If you’ve had a serious illness (cancer), any future tests, medications, etc., that have to do with that diagnosis is covered at 100 percent — nothing out of pocket.
How the card works—It’s a Brilliant System
First of all, the card is free. Your medical information etc. is stored on the card. When you see your Dr., the card is inserted in what looks like a credit card reader. The doctor adds notes to your file, you pay, and off you go. Let me give you an example. I had an appointment with a dermatologist to remove a small skin tag from my back. She’s a Specialist, so her fee was 30 euros. Remember, one of the documents was our RIB (banking information)? Well, a few days later, CPAM transferred 20 euros into our checking account, so the appointment was 10 euros.
I had a dental appointment for a cleaning last week (that is another story!). The charge was 43.38 euros, and I was just reimbursed 30.36 euros, so my cleaning came to 13.02 euros! Astonishing!
I could go on and on, but I won’t. The reason I wrote this post is that so many people contacted me regarding our experience with French healthcare. I hope this is helpful.
Top-Up Insurance; AKA The Mutuelle
It’s optional to purchase top-up insurance to pay for what the Carte Vitale doesn’t cover. We decided to take out a policy just in case. We haven’t used it, although our pharmacist insists that we will be using it when purchasing prescriptions. Our policy is 129 euros a month for the two of us. Not bad.
Is It Perfect?
Ask me that in a few years. Nothing is perfect, but right now, it is looking pretty darn close.
UPDATE: 02/05/2020— We filled six prescriptions yesterday, and between the Carte Vitale and our mutuelle, the cost was ZERO! Amazing.
***DISCLAIMER—This is our experience only. Your experience may differ.***
The Magic Green Card: Carte Vitale first appeared on Chasing The Next Chapter