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What is the Social Security system in France?

For expats navigating the intricate terrain of French living, understanding the intricacies of the general Social Security system is paramount. Covering a substantial 88% of the population, this system has evolved from its origins in the private sector to encompass a diverse rabge of socio-professional groups. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the various branches, their missions, and how foreigners can seamlessly integrate into the social protection fabric of France.

Table of contents

What is the Social Security system in France

Affiliation to the General scheme

The genesis of the general scheme dates back to 1945, aiming to establish a unified social protection regime for the entire French population. Over time, it has expanded beyond the private sector to include students, the unemployed, goverment contract workers, and all those not affiliated with another social security system. Post the dissolution of the social regime for the self-employed (RSI) in 2018, even self-employed artisans, industrialists, traders and liberal professionals fall under its purview. 

> You might be interested in this article: Guide to the carte vitale for expats

Social Security missions - Navigating the branches

The Social Security system operates through six branches, each catering to specific risks and aspects of social protection: 

The illness branch

The illness branch comprehensively address health expenses, encompassing maternity, disability, and mortality concerns. It’s primary focus lies in implementing prevention programs and regulating the French health system. Additionally, the branch is dedicated to social action initiatives, ensuring equitable health access for vulnerable populations. 

The family branch

The family branch oversees family benefits with the aim of mitigating disparities linked to the number of children. It administers both legal family benefits and social action programs designed to assist families experiencing financial challenges. The branch places a significant emphasis on supporting aspects of daily life, catering to the needs of young children, addressing housing concerns, and actively combating both precariousness and disability. 

The work accidents - occupational diseases branch (AT-MP)

This branch oversees occupational risks and the legal insurance system for work-related bodily injuries. It is responsible for executing policies aimed at improving the health and safety conditions of workers. 

The retirement branch

The retirement branch functions on a pay-as-you-go basis, redistributing collected contributions as pensions to retirees. It incorporates solidarity mechanisms within and between diverse pensions schemes. The structure comprises compulsory basic, supplementary, and optional schemes.

The autonomy branch

The autonomy branch oversees expenses linked to the autonomy of elderly and disabled individuals, offering individual aid and supporting relevant establishments and services. Additionally, it undertakes preventive measures against the loss of autonomy and engages in research on aging and disability.

The contributions and recovery branch

The contributions and recovery branch is responsible for collecting all social security contributions, redistributing funds to finance benefits. It actively participates in controlling and combating illegal work, modernising services and analysing economic data to ensure the efficient management to the Social Security treasury. 

Social protection for foreigners in France

For foreigners arriving in France, navigating the intricacies of the social protection system is vital. The provisions vary depending on your purpose – whether it be studying, working, or seeking medical treatment.

Studying in France

Foreign students in France are entitled to the protection provided by Social Security, particularly through Health Insurance, which covers health expenses during their study stay. Following the procedure outlined by Health Insurance is essential to access these benefits.

Working in France

For those coming to work in France, the extent of social protection, especially health cost coverage, hinges on their employment status. Posted workers maintain the social protection provided by their employer, with the responsibility for necessary formalities lying with the employer. On the other hand, expatriates engaging in regular professional activities in France can qualify, under specific conditions, for health cost coverage through French health insurance.

Seeking treatment in France

Foreigners seeking medical treatment in France have two avenues: obtaining a residence permit or opting for scheduled care. In the former case, eligible individuals can secure a residence permit if their health condition necessitates treatment unavailable in their home country. Alternatively, those accompanying a child for treatment can apply for a temporary residence authorisation. However, it’s important to note that automatic coverage of medical costs is not guaranteed in these situations. Additionally, European regulations allow individuals to seek “scheduled care” in France, similar to how French citizens can access treatment in other EU countries under specific conditions.

Final notes

Demystifying France’s general Social Security system is an essential step for expats to seamlessly integrate into the French way of life. From comprehensive health coverage to inclusive family benefits and robust retirement plans, the system reflects the nation’s commitment to social welfare. By understanding the nuances of each branch and the options available, expats can navigate the French social protection landscape with confidence.

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