PEOPLE from the European Union who were resident in France before November 23, 2007 will be able to access healthcare via the Couverture Maladie Universelle (CMU).
The decision by the health authorities means those people who had taken early retirement, or were holders of an E106, and were considered resident in France will have their health provision covered.
After months of campaigning by Euro MPs, the British Embassy and expat groups, the worries and fears of many will now be lifted as changes announced late last year meant thousands of people faced buying expensive private insurance, or the prospect of heading back to the UK.
In a statement on its website the British Embassy said: "We are pleased to announce that the French government has acted upon representations made by the Embassy and the British expatriate community and has decided to allow all inactive EU nationals who were resident in France before 23 November 2007 to access healthcare via the CMU, both those who were registered in the CMU and those who were an E106 holder at that time.
"The new rules requiring inactive EU nationals from other countries living in France after 23 November 2007 to seek private cover still apply, but will now not retrospectively affect people already resident in France before that date."
A leading figure in the efforts to ensure people who were registered and faced seeing their health cover pulled from underneath them was the UK's Minister for Europe Jim Murphy.
He said: "I very much welcome this decision - it follows a lot of contact with the French government about the retrospective nature of their earlier proposals on the implementation of Directive 2004/38EC. I will be speaking to the French Europe Minister again today."
Much work has been undertaken by lobby groups, including French Health Issues, whose spokesperson Deborah Dudley said: "Now that such a change has been agreed we trust that all levels of CPAM staff will be properly briefed and that the outcome will be swift for all concerned.
"We ask those of you who have already been guaranteed cover until the end of March to be patient, in order to allow CPAM staff to deal with the immediate problems of those who have no health provisions, as we believe their situation is the most critical.
"In the meantime, we would like to give our heartfelt thanks to all of you who have campaigned so hard over the past months. Your voice means something – this is a great victory for speaking up for you rights and fighting for justice."