Analytical laboratories in the sights of the government

Posted Sep 19, 2022, 6:57 PM

A eighth wave of covid-19 is looming but a page is about to turn for medical analysis laboratories. After seeing their activity boosted by the health crisis, biologists are now in the crosshairs of health insurance and the government in search of savings.

The Social Security budget (PLFSS) for 2023 presented next Monday by the government should provide for savings in this sector, according to our information. Their amount could exceed 200 million euros, indicate several sources.

“Rate Changes”

Such a measure would not come as a surprise to biologists. Already in July, health insurance had set the tone by proposing in a report to impose "a new financial regulation of the sector".

Faced with a deficit of 26 billion euros in 2021, the organization more specifically proposed to achieve 180 million euros in savings for the year 2023 via “tariff changes” in medical biology. This is enough to make professionals fear today a general drop in the price of procedures reimbursed by Social Security.

Profitability up

To justify its proposal, health insurance argues that the Covid-19 pandemic has exploded the activity of analysis laboratories. On the front line to carry out tens of millions of screening tests, laboratories saw their turnover jump by 85% between 2019 and 2021, to more than 9 billion euros.

Although health insurance has downgraded several times the prices of tests linked to Covid-19, it estimates that it has had to pay more than 7 billion euros to finance the screenings carried out by private laboratories since the start of the epidemic.

The exceptional level of activity of the laboratories went hand in hand with an increase in the profitability of the sector of 20% between 2019 and 2020, to reach a margin rate of 23%, argues the National Health Insurance Fund (CNAM ). Enough to wink at the government where this high profitability is willingly compared to those much lower in the automotive and aeronautics sectors. In the ranks of the executive, it is also pointed out that the machines purchased by the laboratories to carry out the Covid tests have been more than amortized.

“Very high level” of profitability

Moreover, the crisis does not explain everything. The profitability of analytical laboratories was already in 2019 “at a very high level” against a background of “strong and rapid concentration” of the sector since 2010, notes the CNAM. This concentration “was not made to the detriment of access to care” since the number of analysis laboratories remained stable at around 4,000.

However, the CNAM notes that, like what is happening in other European countries, medical biology in France is increasingly in the hands of large private groups. Thus, the six largest private biology groups - Biogroup-LCD, Cerballiance, Inovie, Synlab, Eurofins and Unilabs - now account for more than 60% of the sites.

"Ugly Ducklings"

Medicare analysis is not to the liking of professionals. "We are the ugly ducklings and the profiteers of the crisis, it's annoying", deplores François Blanchecotte, president of the union of biologists. “At one point, the public authorities needed us and we did everything. »

For the biologist, the government should not overreact after admittedly exceptional years, while laboratories are like all other economic players affected by inflation and are under pressure to raise salaries.

In the eyes of the union, the government, today grappling with the problems of medical deserts and hospitals in difficulty, must also take care not to weaken the laboratories under penalty of having "problems of organizing care on the territories ".

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