This summer the French Cour des Comptes (Court of Auditors) ruled that, in order to help balance the healthcare budget, currently standing at a €7.9 billion deficit, medical laboratory testing should be held accountable.
In its 164-page report the Court ruled that one of the main reasons behind the ‘explosive increase’ in laboratory medicine spending was linked to a redundancy in testing. The Court claims that, if just hospital testing was reduced by 10-15% then the Social Security (Assurance Maladie) would save between €200 to €300 million per annum. The Court also decided that, overall, too many medical tests are performed in France and claim much of this is due to duplication, suggesting that once tests have been performed there is no need to repeat them. It also showed that the overall number of tests is increasing exponentially and, as an example, demonstrated that testing for vitamin D has seen a 60% increase in volume over the past 10 years.
To reduce spending on laboratory testing it suggests that laboratories cut their tariffs by 7.5%, a move that would cut lab business by €316 million, saving Social Security €220 million a year. Since 2006, the price of laboratory tests has been revised downwards regularly, much against the wishes of biologists, who would prefer stabilised pricing.
Biologists’ unions fear that this drastic saving is irresponsible and would have further repercussions on laboratory medicine leading to 8,000 job losses in the sector and force smaller laboratories in rural areas to close, potentially reducing the areas’ quality of care. Arguments on the economic value of medical laboratory testing will be discussed on the final day of the JIB meeting in Paris this November and also is the focus of our interview on pages 28-29 of this issue of European Hospital.
In conclusion, the magistrates recommend that there be increased control over spending in medical analysis despite the fact that, in the overall healthcare budget, lab tests account for less than 2% of the total costs and yet are involved in 60% of diagnoses