Complementaire for my husband

Dear all,

This is quite a complicated query; I've asked various 'officials' and had varying responses. I wonder if anyone out there can help guide me through a maze?

1. When we came to France my husband was working as a frontalier: working in Basel, living in Alsace. He has always declared/paid tax in France (2009 through to present day), but health contributions were at that time made in Switzerland. Then he was made unemployed and able to claim unemployment benefit in France. In the course of this he had to apply for, and received, his Carte Vitale. I also had a CV on the back of his (I was not earning) and a top-up health insurance policy with Pacifica (which I still have).

2. In 2011 we bought a house further away from the Swiss border and he only very occasionally works in Switzerland now - the odd week here and there in summer. He now has an international health insurance policy through BUPA and continues to declare earnings (often taxed at source now) in France. He pays 201€ a month for that health insurance and I keep on wondering if we could put him on a simple complementaire as well, so that he would pay about 50€ a month, like me. Bear in mind that he never works in France, still declares/pays his tax here, and would expect to come home (eventually at least, in the case of an accident) and be treated here if he was sick.

3. An English person selling health insurance to ex-pats last year told me that they could/would take his CV away from him because he was no longer unemployed, and on that basis he would always have to have private (expensive) health insurance. I suppose that's the nub of my question. Would they do that? The woman with CPAM in Alsace told us that his cover would end 3 months after he became employed again. However I have my card as a result of his, am now a (very poorly earning) autoentrepreneur, still have my complementaire with Pacifica and have received the correct refunds on glasses and my one visit to my doctor.

4.The woman at Credit Agricole (when I set up my insurance) told me that it was fine, once you had a Carte Vitale, that was it - yours for life.

5. I'm nervous about asking anyone (although have considered CPAM Vosges by email): a.) because I am getting conflicting opinions b.) because I don't want to open that can of worms! But every summer when he is out of a contract for a few months the question rears its head again because we find the BUPA insurance weighing down on our rather slender finances.

Can anyone offer some guidance, bearing in mind the complexity of the situation?

I'm about to make things very simple for myself by changing bank, Cathy... Without a rib, they'll soon be quick to want to open dialogue with me.

I'm sorry that I can't be of more help, Zoe. I feel for you. I suggest you need to take things further to one of the consumer associations - here is the link I forgot to add last time:

I notice that you actually have an annual fee to pay (I think it was about 45€) - I did try searching for another on your behalf (there seem to be several in France), but they all have an annual fee. If you try the link you will need to loo for 'assurances' (it's not under santé).

You could also a) stop the prelevement (although I suspect the bank won't agree with that - but perhaps try talking to a conseilleur there - I've found them helpful because they want your money - they may even suggest a way out for you - I mention this because my own complementaire is purchased through my bank) b) close your bank account down and open a new one to delete the prelevement - but I strongly suggest you have a talk with the conseilleur in the new bank first and tell them what you are trying to achieve. That's what I was forced to do once to stop a prelevement.

There are also, in certain places, things called 'maisons de justice et du droit'. Quote: 'They have a triple function: giving general legal advice, arranging mediation between parties in minor civil disputes (eg. between neighbours) and helping crime victims.' You could try asking at your Mairie if such a service is available in your area.

I've given my best shot - I'm sorry if it still falls far of the mark - but I wish you all the very best in sorting the pickle out!

Well, at any one time one employer is making contributions for me, I'm topping it up, and the other company is taking a prelevement from my bank. If I need help, only one of these mutuelles can help me. I've done step 1 and 2 so many times, I am laughing this rather expensive chaos off, because if I start to get riled up about it, something somewhere will end up in flames.

I've been through the union for something similar once... all they did was give me steps similar to your steps one and two, in order to fix my problem. Steps which I had already taken.

I agree with Zoe - but are you really paying twice each month, or are you paying according to where you are working at the time? It's hard for me to give advice, since I know very little about this subject, but if it were me, I would do these three things (in this order):

1. Go again to my employer that I've worked for the longest and ask them tactfully (so you don't lose your job!) again - tell them you need to resolve the matter this year.

2. If you don't get any joy, I'd ring up the Mutuelle that I've been with the longest (and chosen - that's important) and talk to them about it.

3. If I still didn't get any joy I would try to start a dialogue with the Union Federale des Consommateurs - here is a link to the website at the place where Complementaires are discussed.

All the best of luck Zoe, and I'm sorry this issue is so sticky for you.

It IS mandatory, and I HAVE asked... but everyone keeps telling me it's someone elses' problem... most likely my own...... only, even if I take it on as MY problem, I can't deal with it, because I keep being told It's MY problem. lol.

Hi Zoe,

Surely if you have the right to have just one mutuelle it must be mandatory for your employers to assist you in this.

If it were me I would ask the employer for whom you work the longest amount of time to do this and insist that they do. It is not right to make you pay more because they are lazy.

I suppose I hadn't thought of what happens when we stop working, and was going back under the Irish system of not having paid taxes= not getting proper standards of healthcare, but even back in Ireland, that's changed now, with privatization having stepped in.

Don't the Swiss have a scheme whereby employers must pay into a mutuelle for their staff? My issue is the other way around... I work for two different employers in summer, and winter, and so, have been lumped with two mutuelles. My colleagues tell me it's not right, and that it's up to ME to choose the mutuelle, but neither company, nor employer wants to take on the pqperwork to channel it into one single mutuelle.

Thanks very much for your input Zoe. We both intend staying here long-term. We have bought a house here and this is our only address. At the ages of 57 and 51 we are settled. We came from Ireland and both ditched our health insurance policies from Ireland back in 2009. It was easy and obvious then to choose health insurance because my husband worked in an area where there were plenty of frontaliers going back and forth across the border every day. I had a normal mutuelle from Pacifica, my husband had a frontalier mutuelle from Pacifica (more expensive). Now that we don't live as close to the frontier Pacifica have nothing (as far as I am aware, but we will talk to them on Thursday) like that to offer him any more, although he continues to work abroad. He works on contract and is only home for 2 to 4 months each year. He is unlikely ever to find a job here, although he hates being away from home. The BUPA policy was all we could find that would cover international workers - under the terms of the policy it doesn't matter what your place of residence is , ours happens to be France. But it is 3 times more expensive than my health insurance and he has no cover for glasses, dentist, doctor's visits etc. It is really an insurance policy against something like a heart attack or cancer - and too expensive for us in our current financial situation, which is why I want to switch to a mutuelle for him.

The quote about 5 years residency came from a website for people in dire straits in France - people (mostly women) who had been deserted, divorced, etc. and left in France with virtually no alternative but to stay here. The owners of the website are concerned to give such people a clear indication of their rights if they have been resident here for a certain period of time - anyone who has been resident for over 5 years (as pointed out above, provided they can prove this) has a right to health care cover of some sort and social security benefits. I suspect that they put it there to counteract exactly the sort of comment that my insurance salesman made. There is so much confusion among English speakers living in France as to their rights. I'd beg to differ slightly with you - I've discovered today from that website that they can't 'take your Carte Vitale' away if you haven't been paying in enough AND you have lived here over 5 years [your comment: until the point where they deem you have not paid enough in taxes to continue having healthcare discounted... ] Instead, what you would do would be to apply for complete cover under the national system (on the grounds of low income), rather than paying into a Mutuelle every month as I do.

I'm sorry if my query has been confusing - I'll save you all more of my boring details! I really do hope that this discussion has been useful to others. I am now comfortable that he can buy his Mutelle and be covered until he gets home again by the European Carte de Maladie while abroad.

Hi Graham & Suzanne - from my husband's point of view, there's no problem since he has paid income tax here/declared income here since 2009 - so we have all the tax returns for those years, including this. I think he's fine now, so I've already been into town and arranged to sort out the complementaire with our bank. Thanks so much for your help the two of you!

Nobody can take a carte vitale from you. Employed people have one too, and our contributions are calculated on that. I would suggest that this "English person selling health insurance" was trying to make a sale, and was either misinformed, or lying.

The contributions you have on your carte vitale build up while you are working, and carry on after you have stopped working, until the point where they deem you have not paid enough in taxes to continue having healthcare discounted..

I probably don't make any sense, in my hazy logic, but what I mean is.... you'll both be KEEPING your carte vitales, and in my honest opinion, if you intend on living here long term, you're better off ditching the policies you have back home, and taking mutuelle up with a French company.... and also, if you're still paying BUPA, they SHOULD always cover you here.

IIRC, the onus on the claimant to prove 5 years residency which can only effectively be done in France from completion of annual tax returns.

For those who have lived in France permanently but not declared their existence until only, say, a couple of years ago in some vein hope of obscurity, proving 5 years residency might be difficult.

What Suzanne says about being an AE seems the best route.

Hi Cathy, I also note that you are Auto-entrepreneur which means you can add your husband as an ayant droit anyway I believe.

Dear all - here I think I'm answering my own question, but I thought it might be useful to share. I found this on WAIFS20110 (for women alone in France) under the heading 'Who is Legally Resident?'

'The notion of ‘legal residence’ in France for an inactive person
from within the European Community requires that they have: a
minimum level of resources, and they have health insurance cover.

The health insurance cover may be through 'E' form certification,
private health insurance policy, or registration with the state
health system.

[my emboldening] The two conditions do not apply to those who have lived in France
for an uninterrupted period of five years, as under European law,
no test of resources or obligatory health insurance is necessary
for such persons.

Accordingly, those from with the EU who have lived in France for a
continuous period of five years have a right of access to the
French social security system, including state health insurance
cover (as well as an unconditional right to remain in France).'

By deduction, since we arrived in 2009, my husband's Carte Vitale cannot be taken away from him. I knew I didn't really trust that British insurance advisor in Brittany. I'll go in and talk to Credit Agricole about a complementaire now.