Oh dear me! The infamous carte vitale. Absolutely essential if you find it necessary to access medical care. A prime example of French bureaucracy at its best.
Essential in the sense that without it you’re not registered with the French health healthcare system and if you’re not registered with the French healthcare system you have to pay for everything! And I mean pay! An appointment with the doctor, which to be fair is a lot easier to get than in England, new with a bill for 23 euros, paid there and then via a cheque or debit card! A subsequent visit to the pharmacy results in the same transaction.
As a retiree, the process starts with applying to the DWP in Newcastle for your S1. This entitles (!) you to resign from the English system and apply to join the French system. Or start to apply. This is only the beginning, at this particular moment you’re not covered here or there!
Welcome to the land of pay.
Next, a visit to the CPAM in Pontivy, taking with us every piece of paper that can prove our identities, address, existence and actual being. We arrived at the CPAM and walked in. The machine in the entrance said enter your carte vitale and take a number. No carte vitale, therefore no number. No number therefore nothing, nobody, no existence. The number is everything! But when asked ” Votre nombre, Monsieur?”, I replied in halting French that I didn’t have a CV (I can’t
keep writing carte vitale!) so I couldn’t get a number, the lady very kindly said in perfect English, “Don’t worry about it”. Explaining that we wanted to apply for a CV, she asked for our documents.
I said “Yes, I have copies here…..”.
“No, I need originals”.
“Oh, see you later then”. 60k later, actually.
We went home and looked at the list the lady had kindly given us. Passports, birth certificates, marriage certificate, proof of residence, S1’s and anything
else we could think of.
Back to Pontivy. Ah no, it’s lunchtime. But surprisingly, the CPAM is still open. In we went past the ticket machine to find we were the only people in there, apart from a different lady behind the counter. She flashed us an incredible smile and said:
“Votre nombre, Monsieur?”
“Je n’ai pas un nombre parce que je n’ai pas une carte vitale.”
“Non monsieur, come with me”. She took me to the ticket machine, showed me the correct button to push and gave me a ticket. We went and sat back down with the all important number.
“Yes monsieur, can I help?”
I handed over the ticket which she immediately screwed up and threw in the bin! I explained what we were there for and she asked for our documents. I handed them over and off she went with them. A few minutes later she came back with bloody copies of all of them! (You’ll notice I use a lot of exclamation marks).
The French system drives you to this!!! I’ll be back!
Guest blog by @PlourayPeople