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Health in France

Bitter Pill for High Blood Pressure Patients

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Treatment for high blood pressure will no longer be 100% reimbursable by the French health service.

The ‘silent killer’ as it is known has been removed from the official list of major illnesses (Affections de Longue Durée - ALD).

ALD status opens a right of full reimbursement by the health system of the costs of your treatment for the illness.

Instead, the illness will in future only be reimbursable at the rate of around 70%, in the same manner as more general ailments.

If you have top-up insurance then the cost should ordinarily be picked up by your health insurer (but check your contract), failing which you will need to pay the balance out of your own pocket.

The decision has been denounced by most medical and patient groups as one that has been made purely on financial grounds.

The government refute the accusation, arguing that it was based on a recent report by the scientific advisory committee, the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) who stated that high blood pressure by itself was not a major illness, but merely a ‘factor of risk’ of cardiovascular problems.

The government will save around €20 million a year by the measure.

The campaign groups Collectif interassociatif sur la santé / l'Alliance du Cœur issued a joint statement condemning the decision, arguing that if hypertension was only considered to be a factor of risk, then ‘tomorrow, one can say as much about other illnesses that currently benefit from ALD status’. They are planning legal action, claiming that the decision is unconstitutional.

Those who are already receiving treatment for high blood pressure as an ALD will continue to get 100% reimbursement of their costs. So they will not be affected by the change.

Doctors estimate around 12 million people in France suffer from high blood pressure, but only around less than 50% of them are receiving treatment for it, and only 344,000 benefit from ALD status. Only those with 'severe' hypertension get it categorised as ALD.

You can read more about the list of those illnesses that are considered to be ALD in our Guide to the French Health System.

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