In order to be granted a Long Stay Visitor Visa to France we were required to show proof of health insurance. *Be advised that the French Consulate may require that your insurance cover repatriation of remains. They may also require that it be active at the time of your application. We tried to give a letter saying our insurance would begin on a certain date but they wanted it to already be in effect.
Our sending organization, Global Outreach, requires that we use their health ins plan, which is an international plan through Cigna. Monthly premiums are high, around $1,100 for the family but the annual deductible is low at $500 per family member. Missionaries coming to France who don't have insurance through their sending organization will have to purchase their own insurance to show the French Consulate when applying for their Visas.
How does our American plan work here? When we go to the doctor or hospital we tell them we have American health insurance and it's never an issue. We pay them after the visit and they give us a form which we scan to Cigna through our online account on their website. Once our deductible is met, Cigna wires reimbursements directly to our bank account. It's actually quite simple and we take advantage of using our credit card whenever we can to accrue airline miles. Doctor visits and surgeries here are very inexpensive. General doctor visits have a set price of 23 euros for adults, no matter where you go (specialists cost 28 euros). I had a septoplasty last year (nose surgery to correct a deviated septum). Had I payed out of pocket, it was only around 1,600 euros for everything including 2 days in the hospital. Since healthcare costs are so low here, missionaries in good health who can choose their own US health plan may want to consider a low monthly premium/higher deductible plan. We didn't have the choice but it would be a major advantage to us. Paying out of pocket for all our medical expenses last year would have been way cheaper than our monthly premium of $1,100 x 12 months.
For missionaries planning to stay in France long-term, you may consider joining the French Social Security System which will include health insurance. We haven't joined yet so we can't say what it will cost us but it depends on income and family size. I would guess between 500-900 euros/month for our family of 4. *Full-time workers/missionaries who don't join the French Social Security System must leave France for 1 full year every 5 years. It's for this reason that we've decided that we're definitely going to join. We don't want to disrupt our kids lives every 5 years by taking them out of their home and changing schools.
A disadvantage for us is that right now our sending organization requires us to have their health insurance so when we join the French system we'll be paying for that as well as our US health plan. There is an agreement however between the US and France that prevents us from having to pay Social Security to both countries at the same time so that will help some since US Social Security payments will no longer be taken out of our paycheck once we join the French system. (It's important to note the difference in France with socialized healthcare- Health insurance is part of the Social Security payments whereas in the US it's not.)
American Missionaries to France who are not required by their sending agency to purchase health insurance are at an advantage. They can purchase a temporary American plan to cover them until they join the French system and afterward can cancel it. Another plus- I've been told that there is a way to get reimbursed by the French system for health expenses in the US- for example, if you are in the US on furlough and have to go to the doctor. I don't know how that works yet but when we have experience with all that, we'll update this post.
Hope this helps some of you out there planning to come serve the Lord in France.
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