Carte Vitale use in US

A friend has told us that a French Carte Vitale is valid in the USA, and so a private holiday health insurance is not necessary.

Does anyone know if this is correct?

Thank you.


Hi Karen,

The answer to your question is both Yes and No at the same time.

Yes, there is a bilateral agreement between the USA and France over healthcare, and thus a French Carte Vitale will provide some cover for healthcare in the USA.
BUT, and this is a devil of a big BUT, there are two HUGE catches to this as follows:

  1. The Carte Vitale is NOT valid for payment at the point of use in the USA. You have to pay cash up front, and then make a claim from the French Health Service once you have returned to France.
  2. The claim you make in respect of the costs incurred in the USA will NOT be allowed in respect of what you have actually paid in the USA, but will be calculated based on the cost that would have been incurred had you received the same treatment in France.
    Health costs in the USA are many times higher than in France, so relying on that system would mean you ending up very severely out of pocket.
    The doctors office visit that costs you €25 in France could easily cost you $80 to $100 or more in the USA, but you would still only get the reimbursement based on the €25 French cost.
    Prescription drug charges in the USA are many times what they cost here in France, and a spell in intensive care following a serious accident or health incident such as a stroke or heart attack will be thousands of dollars per day !

Therefore, having private holiday travel insurance is definitely absolutely essential for any visits to the USA, and that insurance should provide cover for at least $1 million to cover the eventuality of a serious accident or illness preventing your immediate repatriation on medical grounds.


Thank you. Very helpful. Have a good day.