What does Emmanuel Macron want for the healthcare sector?

Newly elected French president Emmanuel Macron did not talk much about healthcare during his campaign. Now that his party has won a sweeping majority in Parliament, what is in store for the sector?

One thing is clear: the nomination of Agnès Buzyn to the post of Minister of Health appears to please the private sector.

A haematology professor and ex-president of the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS), an independent scientific regulatory body, several of our French contacts told us that many believe her arrival is sending the right signals: the time of Marisol Touraine, the former MOH fiercely opposed to private healthcare, is truly over.

“Agnès Buzyn wants to focus on prevention, most importantly because Macron aims to limit public healthcare spending to a 2.3% annual increase. That means between €4bn and €5bn worth of savings,” says Stéphane Pichon, managing partner at French consultancy Your Care Consult.

“It will be as usual. We know that will lead to further tariff decreases and less drugs being reimbursed,” he adds.

The country’s budget deficit, which ex-president François Hollande said would be under the 3% ceiling agreed by the EU, already looks set to stand at around 3.2% in 2017.

Such pressure to cut public spending suggests that Macron’s manifesto pledges may not be held – including his promise that the state will pay for the entirety of dental care, eyewear and hearing aids by 2022.

“What we’ve actually seen in recent years is the reimbursement of glasses being limited to once every two years. Opticians are seeing drops in the sales of glasses,” says Pichon.

Meanwhile, Buzyn has decided to merge some mutuelles (supplementary medical insurance) from January 2018 – hoping to “improve services” and “help save costs”.

Macron is also intending to reform the payment structure of hospitals and to change the way they are managed. His manifesto insists on the need to reduce the weight of DRGs in payments to all hospitals, and to give hospitals more autonomy. Pichon, however, says this is no priority for the new government which too busy trying to reform labour laws, considered a key step to fight against unemployment.

He is more optimistic on the pledge to fight the “déserts médicaux” (large rural areas with not enough doctors): “Doctors are organising themselves differently, centralising back office processes and working as a multidisciplinary team. But this is happening regardless of what government is in power.”

“It’s worth bearing in mind that many in the industry wanted Fillon to win. But Macron is the best they could have hoped for after the first round and they will have to work with him. It could have been much worse.”

One source speculated that recent healthcare laws passed by Touraine could be used to enable external investors in areas such as imaging services.

Source: Healthcare Business International – June 30th 2017