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What is the "Sécurité Sociale"?

Understanding the French health system will help you receive better care!

The "Assurance Maladie" and the "Sécurité Sociale"

The "Sécurité Sociale" (social security), colloquially referred to as the “Sécu”, is the French health insurance system; it adheres to values such as solidarity, universality and fairness. It is funded through social contributions and taxes. It is composed of four sections:

  • Family (early childhood, youth, housing, social integration);
  • Old age (retirement, widowhood, loss of autonomy); 
  • Accidents and illnesses occurring at work;
  • Illness (healthcare circuit, pregnancy, disability, death).

► The Assurance Maladie covers this fourth section.

3 possible schemes depending on your situation

Everyone is affiliated with the Assurance Maladie through the Sécurité sociale scheme they pay into (our obligations), and from which they receive services (our rights). Depending on their professional status, people can be affiliated with three different schemes.

A/ By default, you are affiliated with the general scheme

As a student and/or unemployed person and/or employee, you are affiliated with the so-called “general” scheme at the CPAM, the Caisse primaire d’assurance maladie (Primary Sickness Insurance Fund) that covers your place of residence.

B/ You may be affiliated with the "Sécurité sociale des indépendants"

Freelancers, auto-entrepreneurs, individual entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs who have founded a company of which they are the sole partner (EURL or SASU) are known as “travailleurs indépendants” (independent workers). As such, they are affiliated with the Sécurité sociale des indépendants, which was previously known as the RSI (which should not be confused with the RSA!). This may be your case if you are developing your professional career while also pursuing your education, and if you have registered under the micro-entrepreneur status, for instance.

C/ Unlikely in your case: the MSA (Mutualité sociale agricole)

As its name suggests, the MSA only covers farmers.

What is the "Sécurité Sociale étudiante"?

Until now, students were covered by their own specific health insurance scheme, called the “régime étudiant”. Every student enrolled in a higher education institution was automatically affiliated with a specialized organization: the LMDE or the SMERRA.

Beginning in the 2018 academic year, this scheme will progressively be discontinued: students will be covered by the sécurité sociale’s general insurance scheme and affiliated with the CPAM for their place of residence (find out more).

All of the details provided on this health portal are up-to-date take this reform into account.

Why is it important to know about the three different schemes?

  • Because it is not possible to be covered by two at the same time;
  • And knowing who to turn to is important for effective follow-up. For instance, this will ensure that you send your feuilles de soins (treatment forms) to the correct address if you were unable to show your Carte Vitale to your health professional, and receive optimal reimbursement for your care.