The French healthcare system is good so would anyone living in France even think about going abroad for treatment? The answer lies in the high cost of some treatments such as dental treatment in France. Customers have to pay for treatment and then attempt to get partial payment from their healthcare insurer.
In France a good-quality porcelain crown could cost up to €800, of which only €75 would be reimbursed by insurance; the same crown might cost only €300 in Budapest, so the attraction of going abroad for treatment suddenly becomes more obvious. And for dental implants these are expensive, up to €2,000 to €3,000 for one tooth, and no reimbursement from the healthcare provider.
Treatment in France tends to be stretched out over a long period. The wait between preparing a tooth to receive a crown and having the crown fitted may often be as long as 10 days. Treatment abroad means people can have lots of work done over a short period. Some people needing major amounts of reconstructive surgery even opt for two trips, each lasting a fortnight, in order to get their treatment completed quickly rather than spend the afternoon in a French dentist’s waiting room every fortnight for a year. Another area where foreign prices are attractive to people in the French system is eye care because treatments, even simple eye tests, are poorly reimbursed.
State health insurance systems do not cover cosmetic treatment. Eastern European countries, especially Hungary, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, have overtaken Spain as favourites for dental work because standards are high and prices are attractive. Tunisia is also a developing destination for medical tourism for French visitors because many there speak excellent French.
Getting reimbursed for medical treatment received abroad but within Switzerland and the EU is theoretically straightforward as French consumers have the law on their side. However, you have to fill in forms and hope you do not fall foul of bureaucracy. For those who have had the treatment and returned to France, they can claim reimbursement by filling in yet another form (declaration of treatment received abroad). This must be sent with all bills, travel tickets, a pay slip from the month before you travelled abroad for treatment, plus prescriptions and other paperwork that justifies your trip. You must keep photocopies of everything, one copy for you and one for your insurance company, or more often two sets, one for the main insurer and one for the top-up insurer.
Every insurer has a different policy and reimbursement tariff for elective medical treatment abroad, but in theory there are no barriers to the French buying medical care wherever they like. Costs such as travel, accommodation and living expenses during the stay abroad are not reimbursed. Most people get paid eventually, but the fact of having to pay for treatment first, and having to navigate the hazards of paperwork and the administrators that handle it, limits the number of French people going abroad for treatment.