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Succeed in understanding the French insurance system

Or how to avoid administrative errors

When you arrive in France, you will need several insurances to cover you in case of damage. As France does not centralize its protection system, the different names and functions of these insurances may lose you a little at first. However, it is quite easy to find your way around by separating these systems into several categories.

Social Security (Sécurité sociale)

Health insurance is mandatory. You must have it on arrival in France to be reimbursed for treatment in case of an accident. However, it does not reimburse the full cost of care.

Example :

If you have a cavity, and you go to the dentist to get it fixed, it will cost you 23 euros. And thanks to this health insurance, you will be reimbursed up to 70%, which is equivalent to about 16 euros.

How much it costs and who's in charge ?
French Social Security is based on the principle of solidarity : each household participates according to its financial means. A share of each worker's salary is thus deducted to benefit from this health insurance.
However, as a student, you are covered by a special scheme (more details on this page) :

  1. If you reside in the European Union, you will be covered by your European Health Insurance Card.
  2. If you come from a country outside the EU, it is necessary to register on this platform (the page is available in English, Spanish, etc. by clicking on the flag in the top left corner) after you have enrolled in an academic institution.

As a student, you won't have to pay Social Security. However, you will have to pay a mutual insurance company, which will be used to amortize the part of your care reimbursed by Social Security, and even a supplement.

The company concerned depends very much on your profile. As a foreign student, you will normally have to be registered on Ameli, the health insurance covering most French students.

Complementary health insurance (Mutuelle / Complémentaire santé)

To be reimbursed for the maximum amount of its care, it is necessary to also subscribe to complementary health insurance. These mutuals allow you to reimburse the part of the care that is not paid by Social Security.

Example :
You have high dental coverage, and you are gonna be 100% reimbursed for dentures. This repayment will be made in two parts. Indeed, Social Security will reimburse 70%, and the mutual insurance company 30%. If the cost of this consultation amounts to €25, then €17.5 will be reimbursed by the Social Security, and €6.5 reimbursed by the mutual insurance company.

How much is it and who's in charge ?

Several complementary health insurances exist, including MGEL, LMDE and SMENO.
For MGEL, you can choose between three different mutuals, ranging from €10.90 to €32.40 per month. The degree of reimbursement will of course be higher or lower depending on the chosen mutual insurance company (details here).
There are 4 different offers for LMDE, ranging from €4.90 to €37.90 per month. Your care will therefore be more or less reimbursed according to your choice.
SMENO offers complementary health insurance ranging from €5.50 to €37.50 per month.

Home insurance (Assurance habitation)

In France, it is compulsory to take out a home insurance policy when renting accommodation. This insurance covers you against possible incidents such as fire, natural disasters, or burglary. This contract is called a multi-risk homeowner's because it combines several types of coverage.
It is therefore specific insurance, which concerns exclusively the protection of one's home and the property it contains.

How much is it and who's in charge ?

Several companies deal with home insurance, such as Etud’Assur, CIC or Studcorp. The price varies between 4 and 10€ per month for a studio.
You can make an estimate on the CIC or Studcorp website to estimate the monthly cost. You can also find the different offers of here (the site can be put in English or Chinese by clicking on the flag on the top right).

Public Liability insurance (Assurance de Responsabilité Civile)

The principle of civil liability gives rise to another type of insurance. Indeed, this concept refers to the fact of having to compensate for damage caused to others (whether it is unintentional). In addition to being responsible for our own actions, we are also responsible for damages caused by people in our care: a boss will have to compensate for damages caused by his employee, for example.

Example :

If our child accidentally pushes another child, and that child is injured, then, we, as a legally and civilly responsible parent, must repair that damage.

Who's in charge and how much is it ?

This insurance is almost always included in multi-risk home insurance policies. So make sure this is the case before you buy your home insurance, and if it is not, you will have to ask an insurance company for personal liability insurance.
This usually costs between 3 and 7 euros per month.

Travel insurance (Assurance de voyage)

This insurance is completely independent of social security and costs between 35 and 49€ per month on average.
Many international students take out travel insurance first, thinking that this will allow them to be fully protected while abroad for possible treatment. However, this is not the case.

Just taking this insurance to come to France is a mistake you should not make! It is important to take out the insurance described above in order to cover the enormous medical expenses that could otherwise be incurred.
Travel insurance can be useful in some cases, but it is not enough.
You can take out this insurance, especially if the French mutual insurance company does not allow you to reimburse a possible repatriation to your country of origin. However, check the terms and conditions of your travel insurance before taking these offers for granted.

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