The Infamous Carte Vitale

Carte_vitaleOh 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?”
“Thank you”.

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

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12 Responses

  1. Fruitcake
    | Reply

    Stick with it Plouray, it’s worth it’s weight in gold once you have it, as you’ll be asked for it, plus your mutuelle, for everything remotely medical and, trust me, it does make life easier, it’s just the minefield of paperwork you need to wade through to get it that gets a bit much. I think it’s why there are so many forests in France, as they use a tree for every application!! (well it seems like that sometimes!)

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    • David Heslop
      | Reply

      Because my birth certificate was hand written it had to be translated into French. That cost 60€. However, I agree, once you have it everything is easy. I had a heart operation, a private room and all I paid for were my meals. Perhaps we should have to pay for meals in England. As for paying the doctor, yes you pay 23€ but then 70% is paid back into your bank account when the doctor inserts your card into his/her console. If you are diabetic everything is free.

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  2. Blue velvet
    | Reply

    Ha ha yes there’s your photo copies and then there’s theirs ! You couldn’t make it up, still I suppose it gives them something to do. :-(

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  3. Mollygirl
    | Reply

    We had similar, took four trips until we got our carte vitale, however, when the S1 ran out this year, we had to apply for CMU, my husband was accepted, but it took four months for them to accept I was his dependant. Throughout the service in CPAM was exceptional and very cooperative. I suppose it’s like anything, it depends who you get on the day!

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  4. marion
    | Reply

    The same rhing happened to me a hospital waitng for a “fiche de circulation ” this is yet another piece of paper you need in some hospitals before you can even get into your own consultants waiting room . Ticket please one of the ladies behind the desk said . I was the only person apart from them in the waiting area ! I duly went and took and ticket which she took from me scrunched up and threw in the bin .I wonder of it is me or them that is a candidate for the funny farm .

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  5. Que Si
    | Reply

    Our carte vitales finally arrived last week :yahoo: . I can’t pretend that there weren’t a few tears of frustration shed along the way. It took 10 months, three sets of temporary numbers, 100’s of sheets of photocopied paper, at least 30 phone calls to the English speaking helpline and about 60 Euros worth of letters sent recommandée.

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  6. Fruitcake
    | Reply

    Well done for your tenacity Que Si! Not to mention your patience! Treat it with the reverence it deserves and for goodness sake don’t lose it!! It’s like winning a medal isn’t it? Just think though of the pleasure and thrill you will get when you’re able to produce it when asked!! :rose:

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  7. bodiddly
    | Reply

    One point, don’t assume every doctor will take the card check it and not ask for payment, quite a few doctors don’t trust the state to pay them on time and still prefer payment from the patient, this is why they were all up in arms when the state wanted all docs to accept repayments from the state and stop asking the patient for cash up front.

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  8. annie
    | Reply

    Firstly THEY need to make the copies ( for security reasons ) ,secondly the ticket system is to let them know how many people they have dealt with on that day . For my husband and I it has been a marvellous system . We had no problems getting our carte vitale.
    What you have to realise is that , yep , you are in France and as such you are obliged to do it their way, which incidently knocks spot off the english way , in my lowly opinion !!

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  9. marion
    | Reply

    the fiche de circulation gives no indication of how many specialists you see on a given day so I can see no purpose for in it whatsoever ,just another layer of clerical staff in the hospital.

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  10. PlourayPeople
    | Reply

    Well. You’ll never guess what arrived in the post the other day. A letter from l’Assurance Maladies telling me that we had been accepted into the French health system! Included were two forms, with our no d’Immatriculation, which we have to take to our doctor to get him to sign it. We then have to send the completed and signed form to the CPAM in Vannes. Presumably we then just wait for our Carte Vitale to arrive. I’ll let you know.

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  11. Fruitcake
    | Reply

    Wheels turn slowly PP but at least they are turning – you have a number and that’s what counts! (bodiddly – we’ve been in the system for 18 years and have never seen a GP without paying the, what is now, 23 euros, I didn’t realise there was any other option)

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