French airports blocked as new taxi protests held in several cities

Anger over reimbursement rates for hospital transport spurs action

Taxi drivers have already staged a number of protests this year over new hospital transport rules
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French taxi drivers are staging new protests today (March 4) over changes to the hospital transport reimbursement system.

They are set to engage in ‘snail’ operations – driving extremely slowly and blocking access to key roads – in several cities including Bordeaux, Toulouse, Nîmes and Rennes.

The drivers are also blocking access to airports in Toulouse and Bordeaux as well as motorway toll booths.

It comes after unions representing taxi drivers failed to come to an agreement with the national health body the Caisse primaire d'assurance maladie (Cpam) over new reimbursement rates for trips taking patients to hospital appointments.

This led to a 3.5% increase in fares being implemented across the board without approval by the unions. The unions say this does not cover the rises in inflation over the previous year.

Drivers have already conducted a number of similar protests since December 2023 over changes to how such passenger transport is conducted, including plans to make patients share taxis or risk losing their reimbursement from social security (Assurance Maladie).

Read more: Taxis on ‘drive slow’ protest in France over hospital transport change

Which cities are affected?

Taxi drivers confirmed action would take place ‘across France’ but the main protests are largely expected to be centred on a few bigger cities.

The A13 between Normandy and Paris was already blocked at 08:00 today with drivers from as far away as Nancy and Lorient joining action near the capital.

Blockages at Bordeaux-Mérignac will likely begin around midday. Drivers already started to assemble near the Matmut-Atlantique stadium at the north of the city at 10:00.

Airport officials have been urging people to look for alternative means of reaching the airport if possible, such as the tram network, and to check travel statuses before leaving.

Toulouse-Blagnac airport is also expected to be subject to ‘snail’ operations, and taxi drivers hinted that they would block toll booths on key motorways around the city.

In most cities, protests are only expected today, although in Bordeaux disruptions at the airport may also take place tomorrow (March 5).

You can see a map of where protests are taking place here on France3.

Read more: French air traffic controllers take too much time off and risk safety

Pay rise is not in line with inflation

Patients who are very sick, elderly, or otherwise have no means of making it to a hospital or clinic for an appointment can use a taxi and get their transportation costs partially or sometimes fully reimbursed.

Read more: How does hospital and other medical transport work in France?

The French social security then pays a set fee to the taxi driver based on the patient’s journey.

The absence of an agreement on changing these rates for 2024 led Assurance Maladie to set an across the board rise of 3.5% for all drivers.

“With all the discounts [on the side of Assurance Maladie], in the end, the increase they are proposing amounts to zero,” said Emmanuelle Cordier, head of the French National Taxi Federation.

“Discounts are normal. We have to make an effort. But the government estimates that our costs have risen by 5.4% in one year. So the slightest refusal to increase our rates will jeopardise hundreds of taxi drivers,” she added during an interview with FranceInfo.

Some taxi drivers, particularly in rural areas, make more than half of their earnings from hospital transportation.

Estimations are that medical transport fees currently cost the government around €5.5 billion per year, and ministers see it as an area ripe for savings, as they look to tackle France’s debt and cut budget spending.

Taxi drivers and many patients, however, say that making changes to the current system in order to save money will impact drivers and patients negatively, as sharing taxis could lead to medical issues and will make journeys longer

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