All Things Considered… Pt. 2
After housing, next on the list of considerations for moving to another country is healthcare. This is our second largest expense and one that I have been fortunate to have fully covered for most of my 37-year career in education. While I will receive a small stipend toward insurance costs for myself upon retirement should I choose to continue with the policy my employer currently provides, it will not cover the majority of the cost and my husband, though eligible for Medicare by then which will be somewhat beneficial, will not be covered at all. We’ve all heard how wonderful the French healthcare system is. In fact, it is ranked the #1 healthcare system in the world, but we had to investigate how it might work for us as American expats.
One of the requirements in applying for a Long-Term Stay Visa for your move to France is to show proof of insurance so you have to start out with a policy you have purchased in the U.S., preferably one that will ensure coverage overseas. However, once you settle in France, you can begin applying for the Carte Vitale (healthcare card) which will allow you to participate in the French public healthcare system either through the Assurance Maladie (if you are employed and paying taxes) or the Couverature Maladie Universelle (if you are retired) — real universal healthcare coverage! While it is touted to be a lengthy process full of red tape, you can keep all receipts accrued during this time period as reimbursement will be retroactive to the date of your application. Once you possess this card, it will be invaluable. You will produce it for any hospital, doctor, pharmacy, or lab expense, pay in full up front (keeping in mind that the costs for all of these services are regulated and, thus, far less expensive than in the U.S.), submit receipts, and receive reimbursement deposited directly into your French bank account about two weeks later. The cost of this insurance is based on your reported income at a rate of 8% which, for us, would work out to about one-third of the cost of our current coverage in the U.S. In addition, most people in France purchase an inexpensive supplemental policy to cover the majority of expenses not reimbursed by the primary insurance. In any case, if you have an emergency, you can simply go to the nearest emergency room. Regardless of your status, you will be taken care of without proof of insurance or payment before you are treated. From an American point of view, this is truly amazing.
Here are a couple of comparisons that may interest you. In 2011, the cost of a visit to your family physician in France was €24 ($32) as opposed to $104 in the U.S. A more extensive perspective is provided in this recent post by Tom, French husband of American blogger, Diane, of Oui in France who had an eye-opening experience while visiting his wife’s family in the U.S. The difference between American and French healthcare is shocking!
By moving to France, we can eliminate the cost of housing by paying cash for a house (see All Things Considered Pt. 1) and drastically reduce our healthcare costs. This would put us in the position of recuperating almost all of our monthly retirement income instead of spending over half of it on these two major items. So why isn’t everyone doing this? Well, like I said, it’s no easy feat. You have to dedicate yourself to all aspects of this endeavor, plan in advance with plenty of time, and, most of all, be ready and willing for the adventure of your life… and WE ARE!