Thursday, July 14, 2011

A TYPICAL STORY…OR NOT

Our story is a typical one.

My wife Catherine and I have always loved to travel. Ten years ago, when we first visited the Languedoc, we fell in love…in love with the weather, in love with the pace of French village life, in love with the smell of fresh bread every morning.

In love with the wine…

In 2005, we purchased a little holiday house in a small village north of Beziers. Nothing fancy. No garden or pool so no maintenance. We visited when we were able, rented it out to defray some of the expenses.  We came to think of our visits to the Languedoc not as vacations, but as coming home.

That’s why we were pleased to read in an English-language online newsletter that the French government has loosened access to the French healthcare system for early retirees. That’s important to us. If we don’t qualify, we will have to purchase private insurance at a heavy price. We’re not wealthy. Solid middle class. The cost of healthcare could negatively affect our standard of living when we retire permanently to the Languedoc in the next couple of years.

A typical story, except for one thing. We’re Americans. Yanks. From across the Pond. All of this EU stuff doesn’t apply. Not a single EU country recognizes our American Medicare health insurance for retirees. We’ve registered on the message boards. We subscribe to the newsletters. We paid dues to an association of Americans abroad. We’ve even telephoned the French embassy.

We ask the same question: How long will it take to qualify for the French healthcare system if we arrive at age 65 with a carte de sejour?

The answer? Immediately. Or 90 days. Or five years.

Don’t get me wrong. I can deal with uncertainty. I am fully aware that our fate rests in the hands of a French bureaucracy that can be as opaque as a London fog. But it’s frustrating that so much that is written in English concerning our problem, practically all that is written in English, is directed to our UK cousins and that all of the articles on websites directed to Americans are three paragraphs long and link to an international health insurance company.

Are all Americans in the Languedoc either employed or wealthy? Are there any Americans in the Languedoc at all outside of Montpelier? We occasionally hear the accent but most often in places where tourists gather.

Rant over. Are you American? Have you navigated the same problem that we are facing? Send up a smoke signal. Give us a sign.

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