Des dizaines de milliers de Français rejettent la Sécurité sociale et prennent des assurances privées auprès de sociétés britanniques, tandis qu’augmente le mécontentement à l’égard d’un système public malade.

French turn to UK for health care insurance

Tens of thousands of French people reject their national health service and take out private insurance from British companies amid growing frustration with « sick » public system

Tens of thousands of French people have quit the country’s debt-ridden national health service and taken out private insurance with British companies, after losing faith in their « sick » welfare state.

Growing numbers of French professionals, business owners and self-employed workers are refusing to pay expensive health service contributions, which the government says are compulsory. They are embroiled in a prolonged legal battle with the authorities, arguing that European agreements bar the French state from enforcing a « monopoly » on health insurance.

Instead, French professionals have signed up for cheaper private health insurance with companies such as Bristol-based Amariz.

Liberté Sociale, a group of professionals who are resisting state demands for payment of health contributions, estimates that at least 60,000 French people have quit the national system, the majority in the past two years since President Hollande introduced increases in taxes and health contributions. About 30,000 people have taken out policies with Amariz.

The company has set up a website and a help line in French, and reimburses their medical expenses in France.

Claude Reichman, a retired dentist and former public health official who has written a book about the welfare state, stopped paying health contributions 20 years ago. « The French system is illogical and destructive, » said Dr Reichman, 77.

Christian Couturier, general secretary of Liberté Sociale, said none of those who had stopped paying national health contributions had been convicted of breaking the law. « European regulations introduced free competition in health and other services in 1992, » said Mr Couturier, 47, a surgeon. However, he acknowledged that many had been prosecuted and appeals were pending.

Jennifer Landry, a dermatologist, stopped paying contributions last year.

« I was in the red because of these charges, » said Dr Landry, 40. « They massacred me in 2012. It’s cheaper and better to take foreign insurance and that’s what more people are doing now. »

Laurent C., 46, the owner of a new technology company, has also ceased paying contributions but did not wish to be fully identified. He said: « The system is sick. »

He is the author of a book, « Je quitte la Sécu », literally meaning « I quit the social security system. »

In France, « social security » is the term given for a range of state benefits including health, pensions and family allowances. Founded in 1945, the « Sécu », as it known, has a deficit of €236.6 billion (£186 billion) – equivalent to 11.7 per cent of France’s public debt of more than two trillion euros.

« I used to pay 15 per cent of my income for national health insurance, » Laurent C. said. « Instead, I now pay Amariz 350 euros (£275) a month. »

Health service contributions are usually deducted from the pay of salaried employees but the self-employed, including GPs, consultants, lawyers, taxi drivers, craftsmen or shopkeepers, receive quarterly or annual bills. They are calculated as a percentage of their previous year’s income on a complex sliding scale.

Laurent C. added that he used to have to pay seven euros towards the €22 cost of a doctor’s visit as the national scheme contributed only €15, whereas the UK company reimburses the full amount.

Public health care in France is not always free at the point of delivery. Doctors’ fees, for example, are reimbursed but patients usually have to pay a proportion themselves unless they belong to additional private insurance schemes known as « mutuelles ».

« A lot of doctors, lawyers and professionals decided to leave the system in 2013 after the level of their contributions was increased, » Laurent C. said. « Many more followed in 2014 when they saw that people weren’t being forced to pay despite lengthy legal proceedings. »

« We want this case to go to the European Court of Justice, » he said. « We hold weekly meetings in different cities and each week we’re joined by another 150 to 200 people. »

Charles S., 40, a high-earning financial consultant, stopped his contributions after receiving a demand for €70,000 for 2013.

His private insurance from a British company « costs eight or nine times less, » he said. He also declined to be identified by his full name « to avoid antagonising the tax authorities ».

He ridiculed the assertion by the prime minister, Manuel Valls, in London last week that his government « is pro-business ».

« The system in France isn’t designed for entrepreneurs. If it weren’t for all these charges and taxes, I could have hired staff and created jobs. Instead, I work on my own, » Charles S. said. « It’s not surprising that 150,000 to 200,000 people left the country last year. »


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