Universal Healthcare with Limitations
While France's healthcare system is often celebrated for its high-quality service and universal coverage, it is important to acknowledge the limitations and potential challenges that visitors, and guests may encounter during their stay in the Paris region.
- Visitors from European Union (EU) countries are eligible for free or reduced-cost treatment. By using a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), they can receive medically necessary care under the same conditions and at the same cost as people insured in France.
- Those from outside the EU will usually have to pay for healthcare upfront and seek reimbursement from their private health insurer. Some reciprocal healthcare agreements exist (e.g. with Canada or Australia), allowing tourists to receive specific treatments at a reduced cost or for free.
- In an emergency, anyone in France, including tourists, can call the European emergency number 112 or go to the hospital. The cost of emergency care in France is partly covered by the state, regardless of the patient's insurance status.
- Pharmacies in France are easily accessible, as for care, visitors might need to pay the full cost upfront and then claim the money back from their insurance provider.
Navigating the administrative procedures within the French health system can be complex, especially for non-French speakers. Visitors should be prepared to provide necessary documentation, such as passports, insurance details, and proof of eligibility for care, to facilitate smooth interactions with healthcare providers.
Many healthcare professionals in Paris can communicate in English, however there may still be instances where language barriers exist, particularly with support staff.
Personalised Care and Expectations
France's healthcare system ranks among the best globally, offering high-quality services to both residents and visitors. Paris has an extensive healthcare infrastructure, there are two types of French hospitals: state-run “hôpitaux” and privately run “cliniques”. Both are often state-approved and work under the healthcare system in France, so your doctor can refer you to either one.
The significant influx of people during the Paris Games may strain healthcare resources, potentially leading to longer waiting times, especially for non-emergency cases. Nevertheless, the French healthcare system has proven effective and we would like to emphasise that patients will receive the care that is required.
The chart below shows the density of practitioners per 1,000 inhabitants.
Density of doctors per 1,000 inhabitants in France, 2022 or latest available
Source: OECD (2023), Doctors (indicator). doi: 10.1787/4355e1ec-en (Accessed on 22 September 2023)
Challenges in Primary Care
The French health system heavily relies on primary care as the first point of contact for patients. Patient pathways are quite codified and regulated. Access to general practitioners (GPs) can be challenging, particularly in densely populated areas or during peak times.
In situations where immediate medical attention is required but an available GP appointment is not possible, consider visiting urgent care centers or specialised medical clinics equipped to handle minor emergencies. These centers can provide timely medical assistance when immediate access to primary care is challenging.
Specialised Healthcare Expertise
Accessing specialised care in Paris typically requires a referral from a primary care physician or a specialist. Keep in mind that you do not need a referral to see a gynecologist, pediatrician, or ophthalmologist, you can consult them directly.
The renowned hospitals and specialised medical centers in Paris often experience high patient volumes, which can result in longer waiting times for appointments, diagnostic tests, particularly for non-emergency procedures. The chart below shows the number of beds per 1,000 inhabitants.
Number of hospital beds per 1,000 inhabitants, 2022 or latest available
Source: OECD (2023), Hospital beds (indicator). doi: 10.1787/0191328e-en (Accessed on 22 September 2023)
Emergency Services and Safety
Paris has a robust emergency medical services system, including emergency departments "Urgences" in various hospitals.
As a result of the healthcare system design and characteristics and inherited clinical tradition, the second main entering point of the healthcare system is often the emergency department.
The expected waiting time in the A&E can be accessed online at the link below:
The aforementioned website is in French. For translation, people use the native browser translate tool.
As an example, below is a sample of the waiting time for a public hospital in Paris.
Dental Care in Paris
Paris is home to numerous dental clinics and offices that provide a range of services from routine check-ups to emergency dental care. Additionally, hospital emergency rooms can address immediate needs, and will then refer patients to a dentist for follow-up care. For tourists, particularly those from non-EU countries, most dental costs will likely need to be covered out-of-pocket or through travel insurance.
Regardless of the level of urgency of a situation from life-threatening condition, trauma, medical emergency, or need for outpatient consultation and access to specialists, this healthcare system has been designed and geared to best address your medical needs.
How We Can Support
For 38 years International SOS has been at the forefront of supporting the health, safety, and wellbeing of our clients' workforce across the globe.
We have been providing 24/7 medical, security and travel assistance and on-the-ground support to our clients during similar scale sports events in Qatar, Tokyo, South Korea, Brazil, Poland, the UK, and others.
International SOS has an Assistance Centre and security team in Paris and maintains an accredited network of logistics, security and medical providers supporting over 9,000 clients’ workforce from multiple industries and corporate sectors.