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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Sans-papiers : bientôt privés de soins ?

by Marie Barbier

France May Soon Deny Undocumented Immigrants Medical Care

Translated Wednesday 3 November 2010, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Gene Zbikowski

The debate on the 2011 budget, scheduled at the National Assembly for Nov. 2, could reduce the state medical assistance provided to poor undocumented immigrants. The associations that help undocumented immigrants are worried and angry.

The mobilization is equal to the level of worry. Collectives, associations and watchdog groups representing over 1,000 associations working in the area of health rights met yesterday for a press conference to condemn the attacks on state medical assistance (AME).

AME allows illegal aliens living on less than 634 euros a month (in other words, poor undocumented immigrants) to be covered 100% by social security. Today, 216,000 people are registered. But the government is questioning the principle of completely free health care for undocumented immigrants.

In mid-June, the minister of health, Roselyne Bachelot, said before the Senate that she was “not against adult beneficiaries of AME having to pay an obligatory contribution” and that she intended to propose the measure in the next finance bill (PLF). The PLF is to be tabled in the National Assembly on Nov. 2 and Rémi Delatte of the ruling UMP party, who is to introduce the bill, recently stated that the government is still considering making undocumented immigrants pay an annual financial contribution to AME “on the order of 30 euros” per beneficiary, and is also considering limiting the types of health care provided to undocumented immigrants.

In late September, during the debate on the immigration bill in the National Assembly, several UMP amendments to the bill aimed at completely revamping AME were defeated. But the government stated that the question would be discussed during the debate on the 2011 budget. Finally, the latest attack is that of Dominique Tian, who tabled an amendment on Oct. 26 to “limit the application of AME.” Tian wants to reduce AME coverage from one year to three months and to reduce the “types of health care” to vital emergency care, etc.

Xenophobic clichés.

In a speech smelling of xenophobic clichés, Tian explained his motives. He explained that “we have to put an end to aunts, uncles and cousins benefiting from an illegal alien’s AME.” The matter was referred to the social affairs committee of the National Assembly, which rejected the amendment.

In view of these repeated attacks, the associations concerned with undocumented workers are torn between worry and anger. “The attacks on AME boil down to putting security requirements ahead of public health imperatives,” Jean-François Corty of the NGO Médecins du Monde said. “The people who come to see us are not looking to milk the system but to survive.”

In addition to the humanitarian aspect, the associations are condemning economic waste. “In the long term, this is going to cost the French health system a lot more,” said Christian Saout, the president of the Collectif interassociatif pour la santé. He emphasized that the 500 million euros spent on AME only represent 0.003% of the total sickness insurance budget.

“If the nightmare scenario comes true,” said Arnaud Veisse of the Comité médical des exilés, “the only undocumented immigrants who will have a chance of getting treatment will be children or people with a very serious illness. Today, getting AME is very complicated, tomorrow it will be impossible.”

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