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‘Do the viaduct’: Why 2019 is a great year in France for public holidays

France can look forward to a great year for public holidays in 2019. And you'll find there is ample opportunity to 'do the viaduct'...

'Do the viaduct': Why 2019 is a great year in France for public holidays
Photo: AFP

It's a good year for public holidays in France this year, with just one falling on a weekend.

The French have nine weekday public holidays left in 2019, with four of them falling on Mondays meaning you get that long weekend without even trying.

This year only Ascension (May 30th) and Assumption Day (August 15th) fall on a Thursday (and none fall on a Tuesday) giving you just two chances to use that nifty little system called “doing the bridge” (faire le pont) so don't miss out on taking off Friday August 16th for an extra long break.

However while there isn't much chance to faire le pont in 2019, there is ample opportunity to 'do the viaduct' (faire le viaduc) as some have dubbed it, which although far less common than “doing the bridge”, means taking two days off (either the Monday and the Tuesday or the Thursday and Friday) in order to make the most of the public holiday. 

This year three public holidays fall on a Wednesday so now's the time to get your holiday requests in. 

Four and indeed five-day weekends are a joy not just to workers but to the tourism industry as many in France will go away for a short break. On these weekends Paris could feel like it does in mid-August when most of the locals are at the beach.
 
Workers in the UK often miss out on the chances for these extra long weekends because most public holidays fall on a Monday or a Friday. 
 
The only downside to this year's public holidays is that July 14th – France's National Day or Bastille Day as we call it, falls on a Sunday, so we won't get a day off this year.
 
New Year's Day: Monday January 1st
Easter Monday: Monday April 22nd
Labour Day: Wednesday May 1st
Victory in Europe Day (end of WWII): Wednesday May 8th
Ascension: Thursday May 30th
Pentecost: Monday June 10th
National Day: Sunday July 14th
Assumption Day: Thursday August 15th
All Saints' Day: Friday November 1st
Remembrance Day: Monday November 11th
Christmas Day: Wednesday December 25th
 
And if you're looking for the best way to spend all that free time, why not check out this list of the ten must-visit French villages you've never heard of.
 
 
Or pack a bag and head into the French countryside to one of the ten stunning places to go camping in France.
 
Ten stunning places to go camping in France
 
Alternatively, browse this list of the one place you absolutely have to visit in each department of France for inspiration. 
 
The one place you absolutely have to visit in each department of France
 
And if you're on a tight budget, don't despair. Here's a list of the best free thing to do in each Paris arrondissement.
 
The best FREE thing to do in each Paris arrondissement

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HEALTH

Mutuelles: Why is French health insurance getting more expensive?

France’s top-up health insurance 'mutuelles' have been getting steadily more expensive in 2020. Here’s a look at what’s changing, why and who is the worst affected.

Mutuelles: Why is French health insurance getting more expensive?
A dentist is checking the teeth of an elderly lady in a nursing home in Paris. Photo: AFP

“The prices have never been so high in France,” said Fabien Soccio, spokesperson for the company Meilleure Assurance (Best Insurance).

His company this week revealed the results of a new study of France's private health insurance fees, mutuelles, to French media.

After comparing 55 different mutuelles health insurances, Meilleur Assurance concluded that there had been a general spike in the average cost.

What is a mutuelle?

France has generous state health care that covers a lot of medical expenses, but not all costs are reimbursed.

In France you pay upfront for your doctor's appointment, prescription or procedure and then the government reimburses the costs to you. Depending on the procedure and your situation, usually about 80-90 percent of the cost is reimbursed.

If that cost is a €25 appointment with your GP that's not such a big deal, but with more expensive treatments the costs can mount up, which is where a mutuelle comes in.

The mutuelle is a 'top-up' insurance – not obligatory, but recommended – which covers extra costs that are not covered by the state. How much a mutuelle covers will depend on the kind of insurance, where you live and the expenses in question.

If you are an employee, your employer must pay for at least half the cost of your mutuelle

Who was affected by the price increase?

The 2020 price hike touched the country as a whole, however some regions and population groups were harder hit than others, Soccio told Le Parisien.

To compare the costs for different socio-demographic groups, Meilleur Assurance created three different types of profiles; a 25-year-old employee with a “classic” mutuelle; a couple with two children, also on a “classic” mutuelle and a 60-year-old couple with “strengthened” guarantees in their mutuelle.

Seniors hardest hit

Retirees tend to go for fuller versions of mutuelles because these cover additional costs (such as dental and optical treatments). 

Seniors on extensive types of mutuelles were those suffering the steepest price increases this year, Soccio said. 

“In 2020, fifteen départements exceeded a threshold of €3,000 in annual fees for a senior couple with extra guarantees,” Soccio said.

“That’s an average increase of more than €176 in one year,” he said.

For the couple with a child, the increase was slighter ( an extra 4 percent), whereas the young employee saw health insurance bills largely unchanged.

READ ALSO Brexit: Do I need a mutuelle to get residency in France?

 

.. along with Parisians

The study also revealed large price differences between different regions, with inhabitants in the Paris region Ile-de-France paying the highest bills for their mutuelles.

A retired couple would pay on average €528 more if they lived in Paris compared to if they lived in a more rural, cheaper département like Mayenne.

Similarly, employees would pay 30 percent more on average in Paris than in Pays-de-la-Loire.

Parisians also saw the steepest price increases since last year, by 14.6 percent on average for the retired couple with a mutuelle covering extra costs.

On a national level, the average price increase for the same couple was 12.1 percent. 

.. but everyone was a little worse off

However the country as a whole saw a price increase last year, with even those opting for the cheapest kinds of health insurance affected by the general price hike.

In one year, from 2019 to 2020, the cheapest type of health insurance had increased by 13.7 percent, according to the study. 

Why the increase?

Prices generally increase a little every year, but this year was unusual, Soccio said.

“Today, we are in an uncertain and troubled situation,” he told Europe 1, listing several factors that had contributed to the price increase: the Covid-19 pandemic, the government's new health reform known as “100 percent Santé”, and a new health tax known as the “Covid surtax”.

When the French government presented their new budget for 2021, centred on their dazzling €100 billion relaunch plan, they promised not to increase taxes for the French. Instead, to top up their savings a little, the government introduced a new tax, the “Covid surtax”, which will be paid through the mutuelles and other health insurance companies.

This tax will provide €1 billion in total to the state in 2021, and €500 million in 2022, according to French media.

What about the future?

Soccio said he worried the trend of prices increasing would continue in the next couple of years, leading to steep prices for even those opting for the cheaper mutuelles.

“It's safe to bet that the national average costs will pass €3,000 in the next two years,” he told Le Parisien.

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