French social security explained for foreign expats in France

Management Mobility Consulting takes a look at how the French social security regime works and how to go about being treated as an expatriate employee.

Social Security
The “Sécurité Sociale” is the French medical protection system. It provides the French with access to free health care. Any employee who depends on a French company is considered for the scheme. How is social security governed and what are the steps to benefit from it as an expatriate?

Presentation of social security

Social security covers the various health costs of the French in metropolitan France and overseas territories. Each person is given a social security card at the age of 16. This card is to be presented at each act of practiced medicine: go to the doctor’s, dentist’s, go to a pharmacy, a hospital, etc.The organisation of social security is complex and consists of local, regional and national bodies. This hierarchy is structured by nature of risk with joint management, all under the directive of the two ministries dedicated to social security: The Ministry of Solidarity and Health as well as the Ministry of Economy and Finance.Social system funding is largely based on employer and various social contributions (around 80 per cent).French employees are subject to the general social security scheme. To be allowed to take advantage of it, each employee must:
  • Receive remuneration in any form whatsoever, which gives rise to a monthly payment of contribution.
  • To have ties with one or more employers.
Note: the Alsace – Moselle region benefits from special medical reimbursements, due to its past with Germany. Thus, repayments are higher (90 per cent against 70 per cent for the other French regions).

What are the steps for a foreign expatriate employee?

When an expatriate employee begins their mission in the French company to which they are attached, they must go to the closest CPAM (Primary Health Insurance Fund) to their residence to apply for affiliation to the social security system. These are the administrative bodies representing social security; every French city has at least one.A file to be completed is given to the employee who will receive a “Vital Card” a few weeks later with a unique identification number. This card is to be kept for the duration of the stay in France because without it, access to care for free or under reimbursement is not allowed and will be at the expense of the employee.The tracking of reimbursed health expenses is available on the Ameli online account and a summary letter is sent to the employee's home address.As for the French company, it will declare to the Urssaf contribution plan his employee, and the latter will contribute to the social system. The tax and contributions are directly deducted from the salary. The company also contributes to the employee’s contributions by paying employer taxes.For the procedures concerning the CPAM Ile-de-France, we invite you to consult our dedicated article on our website.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory 

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