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France's state-subsidized medical system is considered liberal because doctors and dentists establish private practices, and patients, who are free to choose their own providers, are reimbursed by the state for up to 85% of medical costs. Hospital facilities, although greatly expanded since World War II, are still considered inadequate. Doctors tend to be concentrated in the cities and are in short supply in some rural areas. The death rate, life expectancy, and infant mortality rate are similar to those of other industrialized nations. As is true of most developed countries, the principal causes of death are cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Daniel Noin; Reviewed by Anne Depigny and Agnes Jolivet.
Source: 1997 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, ver. 9.0.1. Bibliography

Medical Care and Health Insurance for Travelers

Finding a Doctor or Pharmacy

In the event you become ill, your best bet is to contact the American Hospital (see address below), just outside of Paris, for referrals to an English-speaking doctor. Midnight visits to local public hospitals can be frightening and confusing, since the interns on duty often speak little English.

If you need medicine, remember that a drugstore (chemist) is called a pharmacie. French pharmacies almost invariably sport a distinctive bright green cross in the shape of the Red Cross logo. At night times and on Sundays, the Commissariat de Police of the district where you reside will inform you of the nearest pharmacy open and the address of the nearest doctor on duty. The pharmacie de garde (late-night drugstore) is also noted in newspapers and on the doors of pharmacies in town.

Should you need to be taken to a hospital, the doctor will call an ambulance for you, or you can apply to the:
Ambulances "Assistance Publique"
28, rue de l'Entrepot, 94220 Charenton
Tel: - Fax.:

To make arrangements for medicine to be flown from home, contact the Ministère des Affaires Sociales--Service Central de la Pharmacie--which is open daily (except Saturdays and Sundays) from 8:30 am to 12 noon and 2:00 pm to 5:30 pm. Keep in mind that it is forbidden to import narcotics into France unless you obtain a special authorization in advance from the French narcotics office at this ministry. Prescription drugs should be accompanied by a statement from a doctor and left in their original labeled containers. In France, police may legally stop and search anyone on the street--no reason is required--and an arrest for illegal drug possession can end your vacation abruptly!

A worldwide directory of English-speaking physicians whose qualifications meet IAMAT standards, and who have agreed to treat members for a set fee, is available from the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers. Membership in the Association is free. Several organizations specialize in providing medical assistance to travelers, such as pre-trip medical referrals, emergency evacuation or repatriation, 24-hr. hotlines for medical consultation, dispatch of medical personnel, relay of medical records, cash for emergencies, and other personal or legal help (see Assistance Companies below).

Health Insurance

Before purchasing any supplemental insurance for your trip, you should review your existing health insurance policy, or consult with your employee benefits administrator or insurance agent, to determine if you are covered for expenses incurred while traveling. Most tour operators, travel agents, and insurance agents sell specialized health-and-accident, flight, trip cancellation, and luggage insurance as well as comprehensive plans covering some or all of these contingencies.

Specific policy provisions of supplemental health-and-accident insurance for travelers include reimbursement for $1,000 to $150,000 worth of medical and/or dental expenses caused by an accident or illness during the trip. The personal-accident or death-and-dismemberment provision pays a lump sum to your beneficiaries if you die, or to you if you lose one or more limbs or your eyesight; lump sums range from $15,000 to $500,000. The medical-assistance provision may reimburse you for the cost of referrals, evacuation, or repatriation and other services, or it may automatically enroll you as a member of a particular medical-assistance company (see Assistance Companies below).

For medical emergencies in France, dial 15.


American Hospital
63, boulevard Victor-Hugo, 92202 Neuilly-sur-Seine
Tel.: ; Fax.: ; Telex: 613.344

British Hospital Hortford
3, rue Barbes, 92300 Levallois -
Tel.: ; Fax.:


International SOS Assistance
Box 11568, Philadelphia, PA 19116, USA (tel. 215-244-1500 or 800-523-8930)
Box 466, Pl. Bonaventure, Montréal, Québec H5A 1C1, Canada (tel. 514-874-7674 or 800-363-0263)

Medex Assistance Corporation
Box 10623, Baltimore, MD 21285, USA (tel. 410-296-2530 or 800-874-9125)

Near Services
450 Prairie Ave., Suite 101, Calumet City, IL 60409, USA (tel. 708-868-6700 or 800-654-6700)

Travel Assistance International
1133 15th Street NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20005, USA (tel. 202-331-1609 or 800-821-2828)


International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (IAMAT)
417 Center St., Lewiston, NY 14092, USA (tel. 716-754-4883)
40 Regal Rd., Guelph, Ontario N1K 1B5, Canada
57 Voirets, 1212 Grand-Lancy, Geneva, Switzerland


Ministère des Affaires Sociales
Service Central de la Pharmacie
14, avenue Duquesne, 75007 Paris
Tel.: (or) ; Fax.:

Author: Ian C. Mills ©1998-99 All Rights Reserved
Bibliography: Fodor's 95 France, Fodor's Travel Publications, Inc., published in the U.S. by Random House, Inc., New York; Let's Go - The Budget Guide to France 1996, SoRelle Brogan Brown, editor, published by St. Martin's Press, New York.
Image sources: Books - Cover shot of "Medicine & Culture".


Medicine & Culture
In association with Books

Medicine & Culture : Varieties of Treatment in the United States, England, West Germany, and France
by Lynn Payer, Kerr L. White

Usually ships within 24 hours.
Paperback, 204 pages
Reprint edition (October 1996)
List Price: $11.95
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ISBN: 0805048030

A classic comparative study of medicine and national culture. The U.S., England, Germany, and France have equivalent life expectancy rates, yet medical treatment differs enormously from country to country. A new foreword by the author examines the trend toward evidence-based medicine and addresses the substantial changes in medical culture since 1988, including the proliferation of alternative medicine and the changing face of medicine in the European Community since the fall of Communism.

France: Culture, History, Language, Travel

Health Links

Assistance Publique - Hôpitaux de Paris
As the name suggests, this site offers a comprehensive listing of hospitals and medical treatment centers, as well as medical providers according to specialty, for the arrondissements of Paris and its immediate suburbs.

Directory of French Hospitals, Medical Clinics
One can find hospitals and/or medical clinics in the majority of France's 95 departments, as well as in two overseas French territories. This comprehensive list is maintained by the Hôpitaux de Rouen. (site in French)

French Health and Medicine Resources
David Gatwood of the University of Tennessee at Martin maintains this collection of links to Francophone health news and information, holistic medicine, dentistry, pharmacology, medical schools, etc.

Institut Pasteur
The Institut Pasteur is a private foundation dedicated to the prevention and treatment of diseases through biological research, education, and public health activities. (site in French & English)

Musée Curie
Opened to the public in 1992 and expanded in 1995, the Musée Curie is located at 11, rue Pierre et Marie Curie, 75248 PARIS Cedex 05. The museum features exhibits of early instruments used in research of radioactivity, archives, and historical photographs. (site in French)

Yahoo! France: Annuaire des Hôpitaux
An excellent list of sites throughout France, including hospitals, clinics & medical centers, university research facilities, medical associations and organizations. (site in French)


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