France has acknowledged that there are problems concerning access into the health system for EU nationals, says the European Commission.
On the evidence of the mails we get from you it is clear that a fair degree of chaos exists on the ground concerning access by European early retirees into the French health system.
We hear of as many of you being accepted into the system as those of you who are refused, when in both cases the circumstances appear identical.
Local health authorities are clearly adopting their own interpretation of the regulations, with some accepting a three month residence qualifying period, whilst others claim access is not permitted until after 5 years. Still others seem to be making up their own rules, often completely oblivious to any central guidance!
So it is with interest last month we heard from the European Commission that they are continuing to put pressure on France to toe the line on European policy. Judging by what they say, they do appear to be making some progress.
In a statement issued to us, Jonathan Todd, the European Spokesman for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, stated that:
"We are still in close touch with the French authorities on this issue. They have acknowledged that there are problems concerning access for nationals of other EU member countries to healthcare in France and have informed the Commission that they are putting in place solutions to prevent these problems occurring in the future."
In response to the question why the Commission had not started infringement proceedings against France, Mr Todd stated that, "the Commission’s objective in all cases where Member States may be failing to fulfil their obligations under EU law is to ensure compliance as soon as possible. Opening formal infringement procedures may not always be the most effective way to obtain compliance. That said, infringement procedures always remain an option if less formal contacts fail to yield results.
In this specific case, the Commission is keeping the situation under active review and will assess whether the solutions put forward by the French authorities will in practice resolve the problems."
Regular readers will of course recognise the refrain, for in June 2011 the EU Commission also then thought they had persuaded France to allow European early retirees with three months residence access to the French health system.
This optimism was borne out of the enforced publication of new guidance to health authorities on admission procedures for access into the Couverture Maladie Universelle.
However, it quickly became clear that the guidance turned out to be typically French obfuscation, for although it claimed the relevant European regulations as its provenance, in practice it merely dished out more of the old medicine.
Most critically, the circular failed to provide a general right of access to health system for early retirees legally resident in France, instead insisting that all applications be dealt with on a 'case by case' basis.
The cryptic language of the circular was finally decoded last February when we published information from an internal document, which effectively re-stated the 5 year residence rule, information which we passed on to the European Commission.
This guidance stated that "the expiration of an E106/S1 is not an automatic ground for granting access to the CMU, this event being foreseeable."
Such was the restrictive nature of the circumstances under which individuals could be admitted, most local health authorities have continued to adopt the 5 year residence qualification rule.
Nevertheless, it is also clear from your mails that, despite the general intransigence by most health authorities, for those who know their rights and who are determined and able enough to fight the fight, some are reluctantly conceding access.
They may be doing so as a result of the use of internal appeal procedures, in other cases as a result of a complaint to the local Conciliateur or, in a small minority of cases, as a result of legal action being threatened or actually taken.
Accordingly, if you are unjustifiably being refused access to the French health system, you can use the information on our website to contest the decision.