Changing terms for long-term sick workers?

Maggie De Block, the Federal minister for social affairs and public health, aims to require the mutual insurances to encourage the long-term sick workers to take a job.

The point is to provide financial incentive with the mutual insurances to push for the long-term sick people to reintegrate into the labour market, according to a communication De Block sent, as L’Écho and De Tijd released last Friday.

We are doing that because the number of sick people is increasing. We must help them, together with the mutual insurances, to get back to work” De Block’s office explained. To reach such a goal, she thought about reforming the public funding granted to the public mutual insurances. That would take the form both of sanctions and compensation.

The first point is to decrease public funding for those who are long-term sick. Today, the expenditure accounts for “one member and a half”, while it should account only for “one member” in the future.

As the mutual insurance companies receive an amount of money which depends on the number of members they have, now they might receive less money, which means they will have no financial interest to have long-term sick members.

When it comes to reintegration of the labour market, sanctions and compensations will apply to these organisations. If lots of people find a job, the organisations will receive an extra-amount of public funding. But if they “do not succeed” in introducing their members back to the labour market, they will receive less money.

Public health has been a very big deal in all the countries in the world for decades and by considering such reforms, the Federal government sends a clear signal: public expenses need to decrease.

After the information was spread in the press, left-wing political leaders have publicly expressed their concerns and disagreements. “It is as if the people had chosen to be sick, as if the mutual insurances were happy to have long-term sick people among their members”, Said Ahmed Laaouej, head of the socialist group at the Chamber, to RTBF. “She [Mrs. De Block] finds the mutual insurances make money off the sick workers and capitalise on extending sick leaves”, Muriel Gerkens, MP for Écolo, added.

Solidaris, the socialist mutual insurances, also has concerns about this reform. “It affects the most vulnerable people by encouraging the mutual insurance companies to set up a selective system”, which would make differences between the ones who cost money and time and the ones that fit with their budget.