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How the French healthcare system operates

Introduction: who to ask in case of a health issue

Choose a referent doctor ('médecin traitant')

Health insurance requires the insured person to choose one referent doctor (“médecin traitant”).
Your “médecin traitant” is then entrusted with your overall care, and is also in charge of coordinating your medical care. He/she is the one who can advise you and direct you to a specialist if needed.
By visiting your “médecin traitant”, or a specialist he/she directed you to, then you are following what is called in French the “parcours de soins coordonnés”, and you will be better reimbursed.

Choosing a "médecin traitant" (referent doctor)
The "médecin traitant" generally is a general practitioner, but can also be a specialist.
To find and choose a "médecin traitant", who would be for example close to the place you live, you can use the online national directory of the CPAM:
As a student in Grenoble, it is also possible to choose the ‘Centre de santé universitaire Michel Zorman’ as your "médecin traitant".

Registering with your "médecin traitant"
The form to use to register with your "médecin traitant" is : « Déclaration de choix du médecin traitant » (form S3704).
It can be dowloaded on the CPAM website or you can ask your doctor directly.
It must be completed with the doctor, and signed both by the doctor and yourself.
It must then be sent off to your health insurance.


The application form for registering with a medecin traitant can be downloaded on the website:
Online form


Consulting a doctor

You can find the addresses of health professionals on the national directory of the CPAM:

Consulting a specialist

It is your medecin traitant who will direct you towards a specialist doctor in case of need (a surgeon, dermatologist, gastro-entero-logist, cardiologist, etc). You will be better reimbursed if you accept this referral (coordinated care) rather than take the initiative yourself in making an appointment with a specialist whom you have chosen youself.
However, certain specialists can be consulted without you passing through your medecin traitant (and without the reimbursement rate being reduced): this is the case for gynaecologists, ophthalmologist, nero-psychiatrist, psychiatrist
, and dentists).

How much does Health Insurance reimburse?

The reimbursement of medical costs varies between 0% and 70% depending on the type of service rendered (consultations, medicine, etc.).

Purchase medecine

The sale of medicine ("medicaments") is pharmaciecontrolled exclusively in France by pharmacies. A large part of medicine requires a doctor's prescription to be obtained and reimbursed by your insurance. Certain common medecines (such as aspirin, etc.) are on free sale but without prescription and therefore not reimbursed by Health Insurance. Pharmacies are open from Monday to Saturday, generally from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Outside these times (nights and weekends), there are 'on-call' or 'duty' pharmacies which stay open: the details of these out-of-regular-hours pharmacies are posted on the door of all pharmacies.
Puce indiquant un lien externe Phone numbers of duty pharmacies

Updated on September 28, 2018

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