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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les sans-papiers pauvres devront payer pour se soigner

by Marie Barbier

Poor Undocumented Immigrants Must Pay For Health Care

Translated Thursday 4 November 2010, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Gene Zbikowski

French deputies yesterday voted a series of amendments which limit state medical care (AME). AME beneficiaries will have to pay a registration fee of 30 euros a year. Left-wing deputies and the associations that assist immigrants describe it as an “absurdity.”

Buried in the middle of the 2011 finance bill, the deputies yesterday voted the end of free medical coverage for poor undocumented immigrants. From now on, AME beneficiaries (illegal aliens living on less than 634 euros a month) will have to pay a 30-euro a year registration fee.

The attack came from right-wing deputies, who tabled a multitude of amendments to “limit the scope of AME." “This scheme is continually running a deficit and we are headed towards an exponential one-billion-euro budget!” Claude Goasguen, a deputy from the ruling UMP party affirmed yesterday as he condemned “abuses,” “frauds,” and other “misuse.”

The Roma as scapegoats.

The AME budget for 2011 that was voted amounts to 588 million euros, a 42% increase over 2002. But, as the minister for health herself explained, “AME financing is not out of control,” since, at the same time, the number of beneficiaries from the scheme has increased by 40%. The registration of Bulgarian and Romanian Roma as beneficiaries in 2007 is undoubtedly one important cause, as is the increase in the number of people whose requests for asylum have been rejected. Both have pumped up the number of foreigners who have neither residence documents nor financial resources.

That is of little importance for the hard-line right-winger Dominique Tian of the UMP party, according to whom illegal aliens take advantage of “personal comfort operations such as plastic surgery and non-vital care such as in vitro fertilization." He consequently proposed limiting AME to “emergency care.” The proposal was rejected by the government (at least for the moment, see our accompanying article). Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot said the proposal was “likely to expose the population to the risk of serious epidemics.” Although it lacked government approval, twenty deputies voted for the amendment all the same.

On the other hand, other restrictions were adopted by the deputies: the payment of a thirty-euro a year registration fee by adult beneficiaries, the limitation of the category of associated beneficiaries to spouses and children, and the reduction of the “set of health care acts” to those whose medical value is considered to be medium or great. The author of the latter amendment pointed out that this will exclude AME payment “for hydrotherapeutic treatment and treatment of sterility, for example.” As if poor undocumented immigrants were packing the balneotherapy establishments…

Left-wing deputies and the associations that assist immigrants sharply condemned these restrictions of AME. “The UMP has found a new scapegoat,” Socialist Party deputy Jean Mallot said. “All of a sudden, the social security deficit is the fault of illegal aliens. Your are scared of the ‘invader,’ the old fantasies are rising to the surface…” Mallot accused the UMP of “hunting on the hunting grounds of the National Front.” For his part, Socialist Party deputy Christian Hutin spoke of a “medical aberration.” “Measles does not ask a person whether s/he has documents or not.”

Access to health care reduced for the most vulnerable.

For France, the land of asylum, it is a “grave error from the point of view of public health.” Last week, patients’ associations and associations that assist foreigners condemned the measures aimed at “reducing yet a little more access to health care for already-vulnerable populations.” For these associations, which are accustomed to working with patients, the 30-euro copayment voted by the deputies will only delay registration or even cause people to give up seeking health care.

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