Our guide to understanding the student health insurance system

27 May 2021


In France, every student can join the student mutual insurance company of his choice and thus benefit from total or partial reimbursement, in addition to that provided by Social Security, of health expenses. Is this subscription compulsory? What are the criteria for choosing a complementary health insurance scheme? Is there any specific assistance available to finance the subscription to a complementary health insurance? We tell you everything you need to know on the subject.

What is a student mutual insurance company?

On 1 September 2019, the student social security system was abolished and the management of compulsory health insurance by student mutual insurance companies was stopped. The activity of the latter has therefore changed considerably since that date and today, the role of a mutual insurance company is very similar to that of a traditional complementary health insurance company: to carry out prevention and solidarity actions and to supplement the reimbursements made by the compulsory health insurance scheme.

Is enrolment in a student health insurance scheme compulsory?

Since 2019, students no longer have to take any steps to join the social security system. When you enrol for the first time in a university, business school or any other higher education establishment, you no longer change regime and remain affiliated to your usual regime, generally that of your parents: general regime, agricultural regime or other special regime in certain cases.

Although membership of a student mutual insurance scheme is now optional, it is still strongly recommended. First of all, membership of a compulsory health insurance scheme allows you to obtain reimbursements for your health costs, but you should be aware that Social Security generally only covers 70% of the cost of routine care, or even less when there is a fee overrun for a general practitioner or specialist. Signing a mutual insurance contract can be particularly interesting if you have regular dental (treatment, prostheses, etc.) or optical expenses, for example. Finally, a health insurance policy allows you to protect yourself against the consequences of certain events (emergency hospitalisation, chronic illness, etc.), the costs of which can be very high.

How to choose a student mutual insurance company?

Many students continue to be affiliated to their parents' complementary health insurance, but some mutual insurance companies offer contracts adapted to the specific needs of students (reimbursement of the cost of vaccinations and booster shots, screening tests, contraceptive pills, etc.) in addition to offering the usual reimbursement rates for routine health expenses.

To choose the most appropriate type of cover, you should anticipate your health needs. You need to ask yourself the right questions, starting with an inventory: do I need regular dental care? Do I plan to have one or more dentures fitted? Do I need to see a specialist regularly?

This exercise will allow you to evaluate the best quality/price ratio among the numerous complementary student health insurance offers that exist on the market (HEYME, Smerra, MGEN, La Mutuelle Des Étudiants, etc.). The monthly contribution can range from 5 to 40 euros per month, so don't hesitate to ask for quotes, to study the reimbursement table and to check the cancellation conditions before subscribing to a mutual insurance.

What financial assistance is available for complementary health insurance?

Under certain conditions, particularly income conditions, you can obtain two types of aid to supplement Social Security reimbursements (general scheme or other): the Couverture maladie universelle complémentaire (CMU-C) and the Aide pour une complémentaire santé (ACS).

The CMU-C gives you free access to certain types of care without exceeding fees and without having to pay in advance (third-party payment of the Social Security scheme's share and the complementary share), and allows you to benefit from a daily hospital, optical or dental package. To be affiliated, you must meet several conditions: you must be legally resident in France for more than three months and your income must be below a certain ceiling established according to the composition of your household (grants are not included in this calculation).

The ACS provides you with annual financial assistance to subscribe to the complementary health insurance of your choice. The ACS is worth around 200 euros and enables you to cover all or part of the annual contribution to your student mutual insurance company and to be entitled to medical fees without any additional charges. It is also granted on the basis of social criteria.

Lastly, some local authorities have set up aid in the form of health vouchers or aid to finance a complementary health insurance scheme. You can contact the General or Regional Council to which you belong or an organisation such as LMDE or a member of the emeVia network to find out more.

The case of mutual insurance for employed students

If you are a student on a fixed-term or permanent contract, at the very end of your studies for example, you can choose the mutual insurance proposed by your company or refuse it under certain conditions: within the framework of a fixed-term contract of less than one year or by justifying, for example, membership of a student mutual insurance scheme elsewhere.