The Vitale card will get a makeover: it will become biometric. A first envelope of 20 million euros in favor of this huge project was voted in the Senate on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday to launch the movement, with the agreement of the government. The president of the Les Républicains group at the Palais du Luxembourg, Bruno Retailleau, had made this measure a condition for voting on the amending finance bill.
A fad of the right and the extreme right for ten years, on the program of Marine Le Pen during the last three presidential elections, the implementation of the biometric Vitale card would be for its supporters an essential means of fighting against the social fraud.
A tamper-proof link between the card and its holder
Like French passports since 2008 or, more recently, identity cards, the transition to biometrics makes it possible to establish an unforgeable link between the card and its holder thanks to a chip integrating user data such as its fingerprints.
After rejecting a similar senatorial bill two years ago, citing “the protection of privacy and personal data”, the government is no longer opposed to it.
The Minister of Health, François Braun, judged that this proposal “deserves to be worked on” and announced in July a “parliamentary mission” on the subject, assuring that the government must “ensure that the benefits are paid to good law, that the contributions and social security contributions are collected in an exhaustive manner”.
However, it is difficult to quantify social fraud. Everyone has their own estimate. Wednesday morning, on RTL, Bruno Retailleau assured that there were “more than 7 million Vitale cards in circulation more than there are French people”. Affirming that “a French person is a health expense of around 3,000 euros”, the savings could then, according to him, amount to “more than 20 billion euros”.
This figure of 7 million is denied by the authorities. On July 19, during questions to the government, the deputy LR Thibault Bazin had meanwhile estimated at “1.8 to 2 million” the number of supernumerary Vitale cards in France, using an estimate from the Social Affairs Commission of the National Assembly of 2020 based on a report by the Court of Auditors. The National Health Insurance Fund considers these latest data to be overvalued, and minimizes the impact of supernumerary cards, many duplicates not being linked to fraud (card lost and then found for example).
In a report from the 2019 Social Affairs Committee, Senator LR Catherine Deroche also warned that the allocation of a biometric Vitale card to all beneficiaries of health insurance benefits “would represent a significant cost”.
Based on an average renewal of 3.6 million Vitale cards per year, the National Health Insurance Fund has judged that the full updating of the cards could take twenty years.
The costs of manufacturing a biometric Vitale card could amount to 15 euros against 4.40 euros for a classic Vitale card, i.e. a total cost of 900 million euros. The equipment of health professionals would cost 60 million euros.
On the side of health professionals, the first reservations were heard: “The Senate is wasting 20 million for a useless and backward-looking measure which can waste medical time”, commented on Twitter Philippe Besset, president of the Federation of pharmacists of pharmacy.
“It always amounts to thinking that it is the poor who make the hole in the expenses when the big expenses are not there”, pointed out Agnès Giannotti, president of MG France, the first union of general practitioners.