Will France liberalise pathology, pharmacies and dentistry?

The French liberal professions have reacted with fury to a set of proposed reforms which would allow private capital to invest in diagnostic labs and pharmacies. Other proposals would end restricted intake, which restricts access to training for dentists and might give a wider role to non-dentists such as hygienists and technicians.  The report on les professions réglementées was compiled in March 2013 by the Inspection Générale des Finances and was published in September 2014. Does it have a hope in hell of becoming law?

The IGF reckons that together the reforms of 33 professions from taxi driver to notaries would add 0.5% to GDP and create 120,000 new jobs.

French healthcare service investors felt that the chance of this government passing such a law was remote.  September 30 saw a huge day of action from almost all the professions. One source said: “This is a weak government. What we need is a coalition between the right and the left to force through these measures. But it is most unlikely to happen.  There would be riots.”

Stephane Pichon points out that in the past when a French government has moved to reform a sector it has paid off the privileged.  “Getting rid of Les Avoués (a form of paralegal) cost €385m in 2002 for 430 individuals and 458 Commissaire-priseurs, a form of public auctioneer, cost around €1m each.” He points out that there are 28,000 pharmacists with a median monthly income of €7,500.  “The state could not afford to pay them off.”

Our Analysis: This report sounds like a disaster as it has effectively unified over 100,000 people from professions ranging from the law to taxi driving. They will fight to preserve their privileges to the end.

Whilst groups like Labco and Unilabs have managed to get around rules designed to stop private capital from owning diagnostic laboratories, the same has not yet happened in dentistry or ophthalmology.  People like Pascal Steichen who have attempted to form dentist chains, such as Dentexia, have been hounded for their pains.

Source: Healthcare Europe / October 8th 2014

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