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Rising costs could make mutuelles €€s

The government’s austerity drive will mean many old people will not be able to afford health insurance, OLIVER ROWLAND

MORE and more senior citizens will be forced to abandon their top-up healthcare mutuelles because of escalating costs, says a leading consumer body.

UFC/Que Choisir says that state reimbursement of healthcare costs last year reached its lowest level since 1973 and it attacked what it called the government’s “abandonment of solidarity”.

The reduction in reimbursement has gone in tandem with steeply rising fees for top-ups, and Que Choisir says these are almost certain to be hiked again in the near future as they face increased tax from this month.

The outlook is not improved as the government seeks to make swathes of savings in its social security finance law for 2012, debated this month.

This includes targets for reducing the deficit of the main social security branch, the régime général. This was €24 billion in 2010 and the government says it will cut it to €18bn this year and €14bn in 2012.

This will be done through changes to the tax and social charge regime but the government also plans to continue to weed out "useless" medicines from the reimbursement system and says it will put pressure on pharmaceutical firms to lower prices.

The social security deficit is a hot potato in France and the state finance watchdog the Cour des Comptes labelled it a “poison” for the country’s finances.

The auditors’ stinging appraisal said a return to equilibrium was now imperative after the total social security deficit last year hit a record of almost €30 billion.

It said this state of affairs – the deficit has tripled in two years – could only be partly explained by the financial crisis

Cour des Comptes president Didier Migaud attacked the increase in debt and said no other major EU country allowed there to be long-term imbalances in social security.

He added that 30 years of deficits had meant “maintaining a spiral of debt that is especially dangerous for the legitimacy and the very survival of our social security system”.

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