Wednesday 10 February 2021
The Covid crisis is impacting on complementary ‘top-up’ health insurance premiums.
As the State health system in France only picks up a percentage of your health costs for routine care, most people take out a complementary health insurance policy for those costs not covered by the State.
These policies are formally called assurance complémentaire santé. They are also often referred to in the vernacular as a 'mutuelle', mainly because many are offered by mutual, ostensibly non-profit associations.
According to the French consumer body Que Choisir, premiums for such policies have increased by an average of +4.3% this year.
The increases are substantially above the level of inflation for 2020 (+0.5%) and the forecast level for 2021 of +1.5%.
The study ranged over 623 individual contracts from 123 different health insurers based on responses from readers.
The average increase of +4.3% means an additional cost of €79 on policyholders, an amount that could be as high as €200 for almost one in five policyholders.
The cost of these policies varies by age and extent of cover, but a person in their 60s can expect to pay anything from €1,000 to €1,500 for a policy, although prices can go a lot higher for a highly protective policy.
The study showed that there was significant difference in the increases between the insurers. Thus, among the 17 health insurers the median increase ranged from 0% to +8.5%.
While insurers Muta Santé, Pro BTP, Mutuelle Générale and MNH have increased their rates by less than +3%, Adrea Mutuelle, Klesia, Swiss Life and Malakoff Humanis approach or exceed +7%.
Que Choisir do not consider that the increase can be justified by increased costs that have been imposed on the insurers with the introduction of '100% Santé' for dental, optical and auditive care, although they do acknowledge that the insurers have also had to absorb an exceptional €1b Covid tax imposed upon them by the government.
However, they consider that the savings the insurers have made in medical treatment costs as a result of Covid substantially offset the impact of the new tax, and that ‘some insurers in have deliberately chosen to pass on the Covid tax to policyholders, even though its amount is less than the savings made.’
Separately, the association of mutuelle health insurers (Fédération nationale de la Mutualité française - FNMF) published their own study on the evolution of tariffs, stating that premiums have risen by +2.6%.
They say such an increase is necessary to cover the the costs of the Covid tax and for the anticipated increase in health treatment that will occur post-Covid. Their study covered a far higher number of respondents than the Que Choisir study.
The insurers also question using the general increase in inflation as a reference point for comparing the increases in premimum rates, arguing that the only appropriate basis is the rise in health costs and taxes imposed on the health insurers by the government.
They claim that: 'Le principal facteur explicatif de l’évolution des cotisations est l’augmentation des dépenses de santé estimée par les mutuelles pour 2021. En effet, pour 2021 la Mutualité Française prévoit des dépenses de santé qui s’inscriront dans celles constatées les précédentes années, amplifiées par un rattrapage des soins. Pour 2020, les moindres dépenses de santé du fait du covid ont été compensées par la taxe mise en place par le gouvernement.'
Like Que Choisir, they confirm that the increase in tariffs has not been universal, with one in five mutuelles not making any increase.
That includes our English language speaking health insurance partner, who is able to offer competitive rates for such policies.