I had food poisoning a couple of weeks ago. It was not a pleasant experience; I won't go into details (I see you all breathe a sigh of relief there) - but suffice it to say, I had three days off uni, and I don't normally let a little vomiting get in the way of going to class.
Anyway, this week-long unpleasantness started on a Sunday afternoon (actually it started on the plane coming back after Easter - Ryanair do provide sick bags, but only after you have demonstrated that you need them, they aren't always in the seatback pockets like on other airlines, so I suggest you carry your own!). So it was that on a Sunday evening, I found myself requiring some form of medical assistance (and a hairtie). If in the UK, I probably would have phoned NHS reDirect, but this is not the UK. So I phoned the university health centre, which was closed - of course - and their answerphone message directed me to the SAMU (emergency services).
The first thing you should know is that you can phone the emergency services here even if it's not a "real" emergency. They put you through to a doctor, and tell you where the nearest clinic is that does weekend opening, or at least that's what they did for me. Then they make you get on your legs and go. Fortunately for me, the nearest is just across the road; less fortunately I walked in the wrong direction at first, so it took me a little while to find it. However, find it I did (and not a moment too soon), and they were very kind and looked after me very well. And gave me an injection, as well as enough drugs to last me through the night (I didn't quite feel up to popping to a pharmacy, although apparently there was an open one somewhere in Grenoble).
For this service, they charged me a little more than 60 euros. Real French people have something called a carte vitale, issued by their mutuelle, which I believe is a health insurance scheme of some description. Your EHIC is a very pretty piece of plastic, but it is absolutely useless at providing you with free medical care. I don't know about the reduced cost bit for sure, but my impression is that if you give them a Carte Vitale, you will not be charged, because they all look at my EHIC like they've never seen one before and then print me off a reimbursement form. I haven't yet worked out what it is I have to do with those reimbursement forms. I have a feeling they won't do me any good at all. I am also on regular medication, for which I have to get the prescription renewed monthly (quelle malheur dans le derriere), and they charge significantly more for this in France than they would in England (about twice as much). Different prescriptions cost different amounts, and I'm quite sure that none of them cost as much as the drugs companies charge for them, so I presume that medications are subsidised by the government in proportion to their cost.
So my advice to you, future student, is look very seriously into getting health insurance with a mutuelle. I'm not sure if Endsleigh does reimbursement for occasional health costs (probably, I just haven't got around to looking into it yet) but I'm pretty sure they don't cover medication for pre-existing conditions.
(Ok the real purpose of this entry was to get some more sympathy for being ill!)