France has one of the most bewildering hospital systems in the world: unlike other national or private health insurance schemes, everything is paid for up front. You should be reimbursed later via some pretty esoteric bureaucracy, but what you’ll need is a guide to navigate you away from the pitfalls. Here it is.
One of the most pleasant things about the health care system in France is that, even as an Australian, you will be treated the same as if you were a resident in France. If you can pay for your treatment, you will have access to care immediately without cause for concern. And as Australia has Social Security Agreements with the European Economic Area (EEA), you may qualify for reimbursements upon your return home. So make sure, you always keep any receipts for medicines or treatment for later claims. In France, be aware that ambulances are privately-operated too: you will need to be able to cover the costs for any transport to and from hospital whatever way you get there.
You may be surprised at the rather blasé approach to standard processes in French healthcare administration, but this is par for the course. You may have to ask to get receipts printed, and it is very unlikely that they will be e-mailed to you – in the most extreme cases they may hurriedly be scrawled on scraps of paper. When you receive a receipt, ensure that it bears the payee’s name and business address – a more official-looking document may be needed for claims back home, and it won’t be easy calling abroad to obtain one once you have left.
Of course, reimbursements are not guaranteed and getting your money can be a long and arduous process, particularly since rushed French healthcare administrators can neglect the finer details – like cost – on prescriptions and receipts. Regardless of where you’re travelling, any holiday maker would recommend cast-iron independent travel insurance, or an extension of your Australian hospital cover for journeys abroad.
If you do end up going into hospital in France, you will, however, be treated by some of the most competent medical experts in the world – and their charges may very well match the elevated level of expertise. Ensure, therefore, that you don’t wind up out of pocket. Choose your travel healthcare provision very carefully.
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