France to offer free therapy for children affected by Covid

President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday announced that France would offer free therapy sessions with a psychologist for children and adolescents whose mental health has been hurt by the Covid-19 pandemic.

France to offer free therapy for children affected by Covid
French President Emmanuel Macron speaks with a child as he visits a child psychiatry department in a hospital in Reims, northern France on April 14th. Photo: CHRISTIAN HARTMANN / POOL / AFP

France’s social security system will fully reimburse a total of 10 sessions with a psychologist for children aged between three and 17, Macron said on a visit to a psychiatric treatment centre in the city of Reims.

“We have today a health problem that is affecting our children and adolescents and that is adding to the epidemic,” he said after meeting both patients and psychologists. 

Macron said that cases of anxiety and other psychological problems had been increasing among young people in a way that had not been seen during the first lockdown against Covid-19 last year.

France is currently in a third nationwide lockdown to fight Covid, although the restrictions are far more limited than in the previous two shutdowns.

READ ALSO: When can I travel more than 10km from home during France’s ‘partial lockdown’?

The country kept its schools open much longer than other European neighbours during the second and third virus waves although it has effectively now extended the spring holidays to keep a lid on a jump in cases.

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Carte vitale: France to adopt a new ‘biometric’ health card

The French parliament has approved a €20 million project to launch a 'biometric' version of the carte vitale health insurance card.

Carte vitale: France to adopt a new 'biometric' health card

As part of the French government’s package of financial aid for the cost-of-living crisis, €20 million will be set set aside to launch a biometric health card, after an amendment proposed by senators was approved.

Right-wing senators made this measure a “condition” of their support for the financial aid package, according to French left-wing daily Libération, and on Thursday the measure was approved by the Assemblée nationale.

While it sounds quite high tech, the idea is relatively simple, according to centre-right MP Thibault Bazin: the carte vitale would be equipped with a chip that “contains physical characteristics of the insured, such as their fingerprints” which would allow healthcare providers to identify them.

The carte vitale is the card that allows anyone registered in the French health system to be reimbursed for medical costs such as doctor’s appointments, medical procedures and prescriptions. The card is linked to the patient’s bank account so that costs are reimbursed directly into the bank account, usually within a couple of days.

READ ALSO How a carte vitale works and how to get one

According to the centre-right Les Républicains group, the reason for having a ‘biometric’ carte vitale is to fight against welfare fraud.

They say this would have two functions; firstly the biometric data would ensure the card could only be used by the holder, and secondly the chip would allow for instant deactivation if the card was lost of stolen.

Support for the biometric carte vitale has mostly been concentrated with right-wing representatives, however, opponants say that the implementation of the tool would be costly and lengthy.

It would involve replacing at least 65 million cards across France and repurposing them with biometric chips, in addition to taking fingerprints for all people concerned.

Additionally, all healthcare professionals would have to join the new system and be equipped with devices capable of reading fingerprints. 

Left-leaning representatives have also voiced concerns regarding the protection of personal data and whether plans would comply with European regulations for protecting personal data, as the creation of ‘biometric’ carte vitales would inevitably lead to the creation of a centralised biometric database. Additionally, there are concerns regarding whether this sensitive personal information could be exposed to cybercrime, as the health insurance system in France has been targeted by hackers in the past.

Finally, there is concern that the amount of financial loss represented by carte vitale fraud has been overestimated. The true figures are difficult to establish, but fraud related to carte vitale use is only a small part of general welfare fraud, which also covers unemployment benefits and other government subsidy schemes.

The scheme is set to begin in the autumn, but there us no information on how this will be done, and whether the biometric chip will just be added to new cards, or whether existing cards will be replaced with new ones.