Paternity leave, salary increase, Covid crisis… MPs vote for an extraordinary Social Security budget

Marked by the cost of the health crisis, it translates into a historic abysmal deficit of 49 billion euros in 2020.

Vertiginous deficits, further aggravated under examination: Parliament definitively adopted on Monday a 2021 Social Security budget transformed into a financial abyss by the health crisis and its economic impact.

The National Assembly, which was responsible for closing six weeks of parliamentary procedure, approved the final reading of the text by 67 votes to 39. The Senate, dominated by the right-wing opposition, had rejected this financing bill for the “social security” (PLFSS) last week, leaving its validation in the name of Parliament to the deputies alone.

The Minister of Health Olivier Véran acknowledged that the health crisis has “tested so many dogmas, so many certainties” in terms of budgetary rigour, that today “the balance may seem far away”. He asserted, however, that “we have nothing to be ashamed of” of this budget which makes it possible to deal with the crisis, and also contains societal advances such as the doubling of the duration of paternity leave. Against the background of curfews and reconfinement, the figures have been revised several times over the course of the sessions: the deficit for 2020 thus goes from 46.6 to 49 billion euros.

“A short-term response”

The forecasts for 2021 are also poor, with a deficit revised to 35.8 billion euros, against 28 billion forecast. Covid obliges, the accounts are torn between lower cash inflows due to the economic crisis, and exploding expenses for overheated hospitals, tests, salaries of caregivers, etc. And now who is looming. Olivier Véran announced in October an extension for this year of 2.4 billion euros to create 4,000 hospital beds “on demand”, and advance the salary increases for caregivers planned by the “Ségur de la Santé”. A month later, his colleague in charge of Public Accounts, Olivier Dussopt, increased the deficit forecast for 2021 by 7.8 billion.

The majority, through Bénédicte Pételle (LREM), welcomed a budget which, despite the unprecedented challenges of the health crisis, “allows us to modernize and consolidate our social protection model”. The right-wing opposition, on the other hand, was alarmed at the consequences of these deficits for the future. “Budgetary scarcity will undoubtedly be the hallmark of future budgets”, predicted Jean-Carles Grelier (LR). The left denounces a budget “which only provides a short-term response” to the crisis. “We are still in a logic of compression” hospital expenses, estimated the communist Pierre Dharréville. La France insoumise (LFI) failed to block the project with a motion of rejection, rejected.

Paternity leave, home help and new branch

Breaking with these difficult prospects, this budget offers a widely welcomed step forward, in , extended from 14 to 28 days, a measure promised by President Macron. They are often called the “forgotten” of the crisis: the government voted 200 million euros for , which intervenes with the elderly and the disabled. The text also confirms the creation of a , dedicated to dependency. But the financing still largely remains to be found, causing Gisèle Biémouret, of the Socialist Group, to say that at this stage it was a “empty shell”. Another notable measure, people going to the emergency room without being hospitalized will have to pay a “flat rate” of 18 euros, replacing the current “moderator ticket”. The left has strong reservations.

The final budget buries the idea adopted by the senators to rectify the social accounts. The reform was judged “premature” by the government and the Assembly did not retain it. Standing up to the government, parliamentarians have imposed a reduction in employers’ charges for winegrowers, with the aim of helping this sector which has been badly affected by the crisis. They also passed several provisions to strengthen the fight against social security fraud, absent from the initial project.

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