France: Health System Review

Health Syst Transit. 2015;17(3):1-218, xvii.


This analysis of the French health system reviews recent developments in organization and governance, health financing, health care provision, health reforms and health system performance. The French population has a good level of health, with the second highest life expectancy in the world for women. It has a high level of choice of providers, and a high level of satisfaction with the health system. However, unhealthy habits such as smoking and harmful alcohol consumption remain significant causes of avoidable mortality. Combined with the significant burden of chronic diseases, this has underscored the need for prevention and integration of services, although these have not historically been strengths of the French system. Although the French health care system is a social insurance system, it has historically had a stronger role for the state than other Bismarckian social insurance systems. Public financing of health care expenditure is among the highest in Europe and out-of-pocket spending among the lowest. Public insurance is compulsory and covers the resident population; it is financed by employee and employer contributions as well as increasingly through taxation. Complementary insurance plays a significant role in ensuring equity in access. Provision is mixed; providers of outpatient care are largely private, and hospital beds are predominantly public or private non-profit-making. Despite health outcomes being among the best in the European Union, social and geographical health inequities remain. Inequality in the distribution of health care professionals is a considerable barrier to equity. The rising cost of health care and the increasing demand for long-term care are also of concern. Reforms are ongoing to address these issues, while striving for equity in financial access; a long-term care reform including public coverage of long-term care is still pending.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care / economics
  • Delivery of Health Care / methods*
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • France
  • Health Policy*
  • Health Status
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Healthcare Financing
  • Humans
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Socioeconomic Factors