I am currently in the US and I'll be in France for the summer. Can a physician in the US make a referral that I can use in France? If that matters, I have a French Social Security and the referral would be for a MRI.

I wonder whether the French Social Security will reimburse me with this prescription, just as if I had a prescription from a physician located in France.

To remove the myth around the French healthcare system, in case anyone suspect I am trying to take advantage of the French Social Security, here are the prices I would pay given my health insurances:

  • Cost of an MRI in France: 450 EUR without insurance, 300 EUR with my insurance (the cost varies depend on the lab so there might be cheaper, but often cheaper means longer waiting time, up to several months)
  • Cost of an MRI in the US: 1800 USD without insurance, 50 USD with my insurance (appointment within the week). The appointment with the medical specialist is free (unlike most specialists in France).
  • Cost of an MRI in South Korea: 500 USD (appointment within the week).

I am insured in both France and the US, not in South Korea.

  • 2
    related: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/21979/…
    – Dirty-flow
    Jul 5, 2014 at 21:55
  • @Dirty-flow Thanks, good to know that prescriptions are valid EU-wide. Jul 5, 2014 at 21:56
  • This question appears to be off-topic because it is about medicine. Jul 6, 2014 at 0:40
  • 1
    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo Sure, it's about medicine when traveling... Jul 6, 2014 at 0:53
  • 3
    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo But that's not what it is. It's neither about how things work in the US nor about how they work in France but about using a prescription from one country in another one. So it's really about getting medical help while traveling and/or traveling for medical purposes. In fact, it's very similar to the other question (which was extremely well received), only about MRI instead of medicines.
    – Relaxed
    Jul 6, 2014 at 9:59

1 Answer 1


AFAIK, an MRI does not necessarily needs to be prescribed, you could in principle simply make an appointment with an imagery lab. Usually, patients would have a referral letter by their general practitioner or another physician, which would indicate what needs to be done and why but that's not really a “prescription” like the ones you need to get restricted medicines. Having a letter from your physician in the US could still be helpful but since it's not formally a prescription, recognition should not be an issue (but you would obviously need to find a radiology specialist who is able to read English).

The lab will probably ask for this letter (along with a number of other things) and it might be difficult to get an appointment without it but it is by no means mandatory. Because of this, you could probably even get money back from the French state insurance system if you are covered (unlike medicines prescribed from non-EU physicians, which are not covered). As user13619 commented below, you might however get a 10% penalty since you would be outside the parcours de soin.

Anecdotally, I heard there is some waiting time for MRI so it might be difficult to fit it in your holiday if you haven't made an appointment beforehand but it's certainly worth a try.

  • 2
    I think any lab running an RMI will be glad to charge you for the exam. Possible issue 1 : ability to understand the English request from your US physician (like which area is to be scanned, technical parameters depending on what is to be looked for, ...). Possible issue 2 : even if you have a French social security number, be careful that you might (probably) be considered as out of the "parcours de soin" and so get less or no reimbursement. See ameli.fr/assures/soins-et-remboursements/comment-etre-rembourse/… (fr).
    – audionuma
    Jul 6, 2014 at 6:18
  • 1
    @user13619 I thought so too but I found many reports suggesting that many are not particularly glad to take patients directly, money or not.
    – Relaxed
    Jul 6, 2014 at 8:24
  • @Relaxed So, if I understand your answer, in France you can schedule an MRI yourself for any reason or no reason, and as long as you are generally eligible for their healthcare system, then healthcare will cover it even without a referral from a GP? I wonder if that's why it takes so long - they aren't restricting MRI and other diagnostic tools to necessary use only, and so the only thing keeping people from spurious MRIs is the cost after insurance. In the US most healthcare coverage would not cover any portion of an MRI that your doctor did not request and justify.
    – Adam Davis
    May 21, 2015 at 14:17

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