Does the growing control of private equity firms and industrial operators over medical biology laboratories threaten the social model of the healthcare system, so dear to the French? Worried about the evolution of the sector, the network of Independent Biologists (LBI), which brings together nearly 1,000 medical biologists and has more than 650 laboratories in France, is sounding the alarm. Denouncing the “danger of the excessive financialization of health”, responsible, according to them, for a degradation of the services provided to patients, its representatives called on Thursday, May 5, the public authorities to react.
“It is our health model of tomorrow that is at stake today”, insists Doctor Dominique Lunte. At the head of the LBI network, the Auvergne deplores the consequences of the arrival of financial operators (investment funds, pension funds, etc.) and industrialists on the sector over the past fifteen years. “Under the pretext of profitability, services are deteriorating: many laboratories, which used to be open six days a week, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., now close at noon or no longer carry out emergency analyzes in the afternoon because the technical platforms are too far from the sampling sites to obtain a result quickly”, points out the medical biologist.
An essential pillar
Longer waiting times, dehumanized reception of patients, almost non-existent explanation of the results of analyzes, and even, accentuation of medical desertification, certain territories being “neglected by investors because of a population density deemed too low to present satisfactory profitability ratios”… The list of repercussions, attributed by the independents, to the massive arrival of financial operators in the capital of medical biology laboratories, and highlighted by an Ipsos survey published Thursday, May 5, is long. According to this survey, 67% of French people would fear that the takeovers of laboratories by large financial groups would lead to a reduction in material and human investments.
The phenomenon is not new. In 2016, an information report on the reform of medical biology, written by the deputies Jean-Louis Touraine (at the time PS, today LRM) and Arnaud Robinet (LR), already noted, in a detailed way, the excesses of this trend towards the financialization of the sector. It must be said that the sector is not lacking in attractions. Nearly 70% of medical diagnoses are made with the support of analysis results, making biology laboratories an essential pillar of the healthcare system. And with the aging of the population, care needs are not about to dry up, suggesting interesting prospects for growth. The icing on the cake: the main payer for these medical procedures being health insurance, risk-taking for investors is all the more limited. The recent example of the Covid crisis, which saw certain large biology groups accumulate turnover records thanks to the profits of PCR tests, attests to this.
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