France set to eliminate up-front GP fees

France set to eliminate up-front GP fees
France will phase out up-front fees for GP visits by 2017, Health Minister Marisol Touraine said on Monday. Photo: Thiery Zoccolan/AFP
France is set to phase out up-front fees for GP visits, the country’s Health Minister said on Monday, with poorer families set to pay nothing up front by as early as the end of next year.

By 2017, France is set to entirely phase out up-front fees for GP consultations, French Health Minister Marisol Touraine announced on Monday.

“Between now and 2017, when you go to see your doctor, you’ll no longer have to pay the cost of the consultation up front,” she said in an interview with French daily Libération.

“And starting from the end of next year, insurers will directly pay the medical expenses of families with modest incomes,” Touraine added.

That’s in contrast to the current situation in France, where only those covered by CMU-C (universal health coverage) or AME (State medical aid) can avoid up-front fees for visiting their GP or buying medicine at the pharmacy.

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Under the ‘tiers payant’ scheme, GPs and pharmacists are not paid up front by a sick person, but rather by the insurer – whether public or private.

Touraine’s announcement on Monday will mean that by 2017, all users will be able to avoid GP fees, even if they don’t have a Carte Vitale – France’s national health insurance card.

As part of the government’s overall health strategy, Touraine also unveiled a plan to install some 300 multi-disciplinary health centres to serve areas of France where there is a lack of medical cover.

“Medical deserts,” as they are known in France, are parts of the country where doctor-patient ratios are significantly lower than average, often due to a slow local economy or aging population.

To entice young medical professionals to live and work in such areas, Touraine announced a significant subsidy: “We’re assuring [such doctors] a guaranteed monthly income of €3,600,” she told Libération.

Touraine said 200 local doctors will be in place by the end of the year.

The health minister also said the goverment wants to change the system of patient records so that it will become easier for health professionals to exchange information, which would be of most benefit to the elderly and those suffering from chronic disease.

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