Sickness insurance contributions cut and benefits increased

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The healthy financial state of Luxembourg's sickness insurance scheme meant that the November 2001 general meeting of the Union of Sickness Funds was able to lower contributions, increase the reimbursement rate for medical treatment and reduce patients' contributions to hospital expenses.

The general meeting of the Union of Sickness Funds (Union des Caisses de Maladies, UCM), the umbrella group for Luxembourg's various sickness insurance funds, brings together the social partners in November each year. The purpose of the meeting is to fix a balanced budget.

In November 1999, despite protests from employee representatives, the general meeting reduced certain benefits and increased contribution rates. It also agreed extra funding of about LUF 1 billion from the government (LU9912118F). In November 2000, these benefit reductions were retained despite a budgetary surplus and vigorous protests from employee representatives (LU0012154F).

In contrast to events in previous years, the general meeting on 15 November 2001 took no more an hour to reach an agreement which, with surplus receipts likely to reach LUF 50 million by the end of 2002, favoured insured employees.

Total employers' and employees' sickness insurance contributions have been reduced from 2.72% to 2.65% for white-collar workers, and from 4.95% to 4.90% for blue-collar workers. Scheme members' financial contributions to their healthcare benefits are also reduced: the normal rate of the insurance scheme's contribution to the cost of medicines was cut from 80% to 78% in 1999, but has now been returned to 80%. Contributions made by scheme members to dental treatment and hospital expenses have also been reduced.

Finally, the social partners signed a declaration in which they stated their intention to hire an independent expert to carry out audits on dental care and psychotherapy, and to look into the issues of preventive medicine and the avoidance of back pain.

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