(CN) – Europe’s highest court upheld French legislation requiring an insured person to get prior authorization to receive health care treatment in another member state.
The European Commission argued that the French policy, which applies to nationals seeking non-hospital care involving major medical equipment outside France, violated the European Union’s community principles.
The Luxembourg-based Court of Justice agreed with this argument, but said the restriction is justified by the high cost of medical equipment, such as magnetic resonance imaging machines, which can run into the millions of dollars.
However, the court stressed that any system requiring prior authorization must be objective and non-discriminatory. The European Commission did not provide specific enough criticism on this point, the court ruled.
The amount of reimbursement, though an issue in the past, was not in question here, as the French policy provides for additional reimbursement if costs run beyond what’s allowed under national coverage.
In dismissing the case, the EU court noted that applying market rules to nationalized health care systems has been controversial in past rulings.
Like many European countries, France offers universal health care. The World Health Organization in 2000 rated France as having the world’s best health care system, although it comes at a price: about one-fifth of a French company’s payroll goes toward compulsory coverage.