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Cancer survivors welcome ‘right to be forgotten’ moves in France

Cancer survivors in France have welcomed plans to allow their medical history to be 'forgotten' after five years rather than the current 10 when applying for loans or mortgages.

Cancer survivors welcome 'right to be forgotten' moves in France
Photo: Pascal Pochard-Casabianca / AFP

Currently, anyone who has survived cancer must report that they have had it on mortgage and loan applications for a decade after they have been declared clear.

A change in the law would represent progress for thousands of patients forced to declare their history of cancer, for example when applying for a mortgage.

Under plans agreed by a joint committee of senators and MPs, which also has government backing as it was a campaign promise of Emmanuel Macron in 2017, that period would be reduced by half as long as the cancer has not returned.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Olivier Véran said that it was “the wish of the president and the government to keep this commitment” before Parliament breaks up ahead of the Presidential elections.

Véran himself welcomed the move on Twitter.

In an interview with cancer association RoseUp, Véran said the health crisis was a key reason for the delay getting the plan before Parliament. 

“But our will has always been full and complete,” he said.

“This is also why I wanted the principle of the extension of the right to be forgotten to be included in the new 10-year strategy against cancer, and that with the Minister for the Economy, we also contacted … insurers and patient associations to get them to move forward without waiting for the law to be adopted.

“It’s a historic vote. This allows cured people access to loans under normal conditions”, said Isabelle Huet, of the cancer association RoseUp told AFP.

“It’s a big step towards the inclusion of people who have had cancer,” added Catherine Simonin of the Ligue contre le cancer. “With the right to be forgotten, we enter into common law and we are no longer penalised by the disease we have suffered”.

This measure must be discussed again on Thursday, during a joint committee between the Senate and the National Assembly.

The joint committee agreement came on the eve of World Cancer Day, on which Véran unveiled France’s new 10-year strategy. Now the text heads to the Assembly and the Senate for a final vote on February 17th.

The right to be forgotten was created in France in 2017. At the same time, the AERAS agreement, (“s’Assurer et Emprunter avec un Risque Aggravé de Santé”), signed between banking professionals, associations and the public authorities, has facilitated access to borrowing for those who have recovered from life-threatening conditions, cutting the waiting period necessary before not declaring cancer from 20 to 10 years – and five years for young people under 21.

But those who have recovered from diseases such as cancer have still found getting a home loan or credit has been an uphill battle – with refusals, delays and added insurance costs, depending on the type of cancer, commonplace.

Nearly four million people in France are believed to have or have recovered from cancer. 

In addition to reducing the period before the right to be forgotten kicks in, parliamentarians proposed to remove the medical questionnaire for mortgages below €200,000 and whose term occurs before the 65th birthday of the borrower.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Paxlovid, tests and isolation: Covid care for tourists in France

With travel opening up, many people are planning trips to France over the next few months, but the Covid pandemic has not gone away. Here are your questions answered on testing, isolation and medical treatment if you do fall sick while on holiday.

Paxlovid, tests and isolation: Covid care for tourists in France

Travel rules

Covid-related travel rules have mostly been relaxed now but you will still need to show proof of being fully vaccinated at the French border. If you are not vaccinated you will need to show a negative Covid test – find the full breakdown of the rules HERE.

Testing

Once in France if you develop symptoms or you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive you will need to get a Covid test.

The good news is that testing is widely available in France, both for residents and tourists.

The easiest way to get a test is head to a pharmacy, most of which offer the rapid-result antigen test on a walk-in basis Tests are available to everyone who wants one, there is no need to fulfill any set criteria.

For full details on how to get a test, and some handy French vocab, click HERE.

The difference for tourists is that you will have to pay for your test, while residents get their costs reimbursed by the French state health system.

In the pharmacy you may be asked for your carte vitale – this is the health card that residents use to claim refunds. As a tourist you won’t have the card – you can still get the test, you will just need to pay for it. Costs vary between pharmacies but are capped at €22 for an antigen test or €54 for a PCR test.

Isolation

If your test is positive you are legally required to isolate, but how long your isolation period is depends on the your vaccination stats – full details HERE.

Treatment

For most fully-vaccinated people without underlying health conditions the symptoms of Covid are fairly mild, but if you do become ill, here’s how to access medical help while in France.

Pharmacy – one of the first things you will notice about France is that pharmacies are everywhere, just look out for the green cross. As well as selling over-the-counter medication, pharmacies all have at least one fully-qualified pharmacist on the staff who can offer medical advice. 

Take advantage of pharmacists – they train for at least six years so they’re very knowledgeable and they’re easy to access by simply walking into the shop. In tourist areas it’s likely that they will speak English. Pharmacists can also signpost you to a nearby doctor if you need extra help.

Doctors – if you need to see a doctor, look out for a médecin généraliste (a GP or family doctor). There is no need to be registered with a doctor, simply call up and ask for an appointment if you need one. If you have a smartphone you can use the medical app Doctolib to find a généraliste in your area who speaks English. You will need to pay for your consultation – €25 is the standard charge and you pay the doctor directly using either cash or a debit card.

You may be able to claim back the cost later on your own health/travel insurance depending on the policy.

Ambulance – if you are very sick or have difficulty breathing you should call an ambulance – the number is 15. All non-residents are entitled to emergency treatment in France, whether or not you have insurance, but if you are admitted or have treatment you may need to pay later.

READ ALSO Emergency in France: Who to call and what to say

Paxlovid – several readers have asked whether the Covid treatment drug Paxlovid is available in France. It was licenced for use in February 2022 and is available on prescription from pharmacies, mainly for people with underlying health conditions or an impaired immune system. You can get a prescription from a medical practitioner.

The drug is reimbursed for French residents, but as a tourist you will have to pay.

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