The 2013/07/23 at 08:24
Marie Luginsland, in Germany
“Equity is at stake,” says Marisol Touraine. “Border dwellers take out private insurance enabling them to pay lower contributions but whenever they are confronted with more serious health problems, it’s more interesting for them to return to the social security system,” continued the French Minister of Health, arguing in favour of the end of the right for border dwellers to choose their health coverage option.
This right to choose has been enjoyed by French workers in Switzerland in the last fifty years. Until now, they have been entitled to take out their health insurance from either a French insurer, from the CMU or else a private Swiss fund overseen by the Lamal (Loi sur l’Assurance Maladie or Law on Health Insurance). 95 % of the 137,000 border dwellers have opted for the first solution.
From year to year, this right has been renewed by bilateral agreements between France and Switzerland. But following a government decision, from 1 June 2014, French border dwellers who work in Switzerland will no longer be able to choose their health insurance but be obliged to join the CMU. To be translated in the French Bill on the Financing of Social Security 2014, this decision will also have a heavy impact on the economies of the south of Alsace, Franche-Comté and Haute-Savoie.
True, the contribution rate of 13.5 % imposed on employees will reap a further 400 to 500 million euros for French social security funds. However, for these workers who currently pay a yearly insurance premium of around 1,200 euros, the end of the right to choose represents a doubling in their sickness contributions. In other words, this drop in income will eat into the purchasing power of these border dwellers who consume in France, their country of residency. The 179,000 border dwellers can be divided into two main clusters: Basel and its region and Geneva. On the French side, six departments are concerned by these daily migratory flows: Haut-Rhin, Belfort, Doubs, Jura, Ain and Haute-Savoie
“On top of our shopping centres that have developed in accordance with the strong purchasing power of the border dwellers, craftsmen and shopkeepers in border regions and the real estate of these regions will suffer a loss in purchasing power,” comment the CCIs of Pontarlier and Besançon. Given the extent of the expected damage, the Chambers envisage launching an impact study in autumn to measure the economic weight of this governmental decision on their regions whose trade and economic structures have been constructed to correspond with the incomes of border dwellers.
Meanwhile, insurers have also checked their accounts. Health insurers of these border dwellers find themselves in the firing line and will bear the full brunt of the end of the right to choose.
“We asked around all our colleagues a few months ago. Some firms will see their portfolios affected by 30 to 40 %, or even 70 to 80 % for a few. In order words, the existence of certain structures may be in question, mainly those who have based their strategies on this population,” explains Christophe Charpentier, President of General Insurance Agents in Franche-Comté.
500 to 600 insurance jobs threatened
Seeing a big market of 204 million euros per year fly away, some insurers are preparing to close their businesses. Among them, two mutual insurance companies specifically aimed at border dwellers find themselves in precarious positions. “If the right to choose is eliminated, eleven out of the fourteen offices of the Frontalière – a mutual insurance company founded by the Amicale des Frontaliers – along the border will have to close and twenty out of the twenty-seven employees retrenched,” announces Alain Marguet, President of La Frontalière. Similarly, observers estimate that between 500 and 600 jobs will disappear in the insurance sector.
Gilles Gacon is amongst the insurers under threat. He founded his brokerage firm L’Assurance des Frontaliers in Saint-Louis in the department of Haut-Rhin, just one hundred metres from Switzerland. He insures 2,500 border dwellers including many cleaners who clean planes at the Basel-Mulhouse Airport. Low-qualification jobs that are better paid than in France, but exposed to difficult timetables and overseen by Swiss legislation foreseeing 45 working hours per week and four weeks of paid leave.
In these conditions, economic players and local authorities are wondering whether the end of the right to choose will not completely discourage border dwellers from travelling over one hundred kilometres every day to go and work in Switzerland.