Not fitting the mold ...
Updated: May 19
Hey you! ✍️
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the Health Care System in France (it was also on the podcast) and I briefly mentioned my experience filing my papers to have my Carte Vitale (French health card). I think it's time to talk about this now. 😁
Are you ready? Here is my experience.
My dad is French and my mom is Filipino. I grew up in the Philippines and in 2011, I decided to move to France with my husband and daughter. But I came here alone first. My husband and my daughter stayed in the Philippines because my mother-in-law was dying of a cancer and we wanted them to spend as much time together as possible.
In my first year here, I lived with my sister and her family. I was looking for work left and right. My first priority was getting my French administrative papers. First, the CAF, which stands for 'Caisse des Allocations Familiales' and it represents a great form of financial support in France, varying from support for young children to social security and housing benefits, just to name a few.
My sister knows someone who works at the CAF and together we worked on my papers and file. In my papers, I declared that I was married and had a child. All was ok ... for now.
Next priority was, my sécurité sociale, which is the French health insurance system. It is funded through social contributions and taxes. It is composed of four sections and works with the CAF:
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).
In France, it is important to have a sécurité sociale number and it is a requirement when applying for a job. When you are living or working in France for more than 3 months, you are eligible for the French national health coverage. Your French social security number is created automatically when you apply for the heath insurance.
Sounds pretty easy right? Well, that wasn't the case for me. 😡
So I booked an appointment at the sécurité sociale office with my form all filled up. I was feeling super confident and I thought everything would be fine, only to be told by an agent that it wouldn't work. The reason why? My husband and my daughter were in the Philippines.
To the agent (let's call him Mr. Not So Nice Guy), I couldn't apply for a number because I had declared in my CAF papers that I was married and had a child. Which is true. But when he asked me where they were, I answered they were in the Philippines. Which was also true. So to him, I was "separated". And that wasn't true. Maybe geographically separated, but we were still married and together. To him, I should have just written that I was separated on my papers, but when I later talked to the CAF lady, she said it was absurd because I was married and not separated.
He refused my file and told me to go home.
What the hell was happening?! So I couldn't work in France because I had no number to give, which is why I started working in Luxembourg. I, a French citizen, could not get a sécurité sociale number. But I had a Luxembourg sécurité sociale number! How absurd is that, right??
So I went back home to my sister's that day feeling really disappointed and also very confused. Why did it have to be so complicated?, I asked myself. I just wanted my number and work like everyone else and not be stuck at home doing nothing.
My sister was dumbfounded. So we booked another appointment and this time she came with me. We waited for our number to be called and surprise surprise, it was Mr. Not So Nice Guy again. There were 6 or 8 offices, but of course it had be to be his.
Has your situation changed?
Are your husband and daughter still in the Philippines?
No and yes.
Okay, so there's nothing I can do for you then. Application denied.
My sister refused to leave his office. She wanted answers. Clear answers. Why was he refusing her baby sister's application for a sécurité sociale?
I am French after all. Isn't it supposed to be automatic? And what happens if I have a health problem? What happens if I break my leg on the way to work? If I need to see a doctor. What happens then?
His answer was it is BECAUSE I am French and that there is a strict protocol to follow. That I just couldn't apply for a number because on his computer he couldn't declare that my husband and my daughter were in the Philippines. Simply put, we didn't fit the mold. But really? Was I the only woman in France who was geographically separated from her husband and daughter? I don't think so.
I had to drag my sister out of his office because I could tell that she wanted to throw something. Devastated, we drowned our sorrows in chocolates later that day.
So I went on for weeks without any social security up until the universe decided that enough was enough.
At that time, my sister was renovating her late grandma's house and she hired a tiler. One day, she had an appointment and so she asked me if I was working and if not, could I cook lunch for the tiler and eventually eat with him.
I did and during our meal, he mentioned that I looked a bit stressed (in other words, I looked like shit). So I mentioned that yes I was stressed and went on to tell him my social security dilemma. And just like that, his face lit up. I could see the stars in his eyes and he said, "I think I can help you."
Turns out, he was also laying tiles in another home. And guess whose it was?
The director of the social security branch office of our region!
Ah-ha, there it was! The universe helping me. 🙏
So he talked to the director who nicely told him that he would call me the day after.
He did and during our phone call, he told me to fill the form (the same one I had burned out of anger weeks ago), to book an appointment at the office, and to mention his name. Let's call him - Mr. X.
I did all of that and guess what? I was again called into Mr. Not So Nice Guy's office, but this time the ball was in my court. When I first entered his office, he recognised me right away, looked a bit pissed, and disrespectfully tried to shoo me away with his hand.
"My situation has changed", I announced.
"Ah bon? Really?", he looked at my file and said impatiently, "It looks the same to me."
Yes, the content is the same. But do you happen to know Mr. X?
Hmm, he's my manager. Why?
Well, I'm here today thanks to him. He's expecting my file and expects you to do me right.
"Ah alright, yes, I understand," he said as he swallowed hard. He closed my file, wrote three words on a post-it "Mr. X" and "Priority", before sticking it on my file.
Needless to say, I went out of his office with a huge smirk on my face.
And guess what? Three days later, I received my sécurité sociale number by mail.