Student Insurance Group Criticized by Court for Poor Customer Service and Inefficiency

The Cour des Comptes in Paris. Photo: Tangopaso, Wikimedia Commons

The Cour des Comptes in Paris.
Photo: Tangopaso, Wikimedia Commons

In a draft report released on July 17, the Cour des Comptes denounced the French student insurance group, La Mutuelle des étudiants (LMDE), for inefficiency and “very unsatisfactory” service. The student insurance group received an average satisfaction score of 2.33 out of 5 in tests run by the Court, the lowest score of any student health insurance company. This number is striking next to LMDE’s self-produced customer service survey, which claimed an 88% satisfaction rate.

LMDE insures over half of 1.7 million French students, who are all required to join a student insurance group in order to cover their basic healthcare, though they can then opt for additional coverage. Made up of eleven different insurance groups, the student social security system has received both government and public criticism in the past year, leading the Cour des Comptes to investigate and file a report on the system, to be released in September. The French newspaper, Le Monde, obtained a draft version of the report this past Wednesday, providing insight into the system’s failures.

One does not have to dig deep to find causes for the students’ dissatisfaction with LMDE. Reimbursement and processing is incredibly delayed, with 10% of students having still not having received their “Vitale” life-insurance cards after nine months of enrollment, denying them third-party benefits and easy processing.

The company is also significantly lacking in customer service, with only one in fourteen calls being picked up and over 200,000 letters left awaiting responses when the company was investigated back in February. LMDE and its fellow student insurance groups are also extremely behind in developing online services.

LMDE’s customer dissatisfaction comes alongside increasing management costs and financial troubles, with management fees increasing by 7% since 2005, when the operating costs of most insurance groups have decreased during that same time period. LMDE also suffers from a chronic financial deficit, incurring 23.4 million Euros in cumulative loses at the end of 2011.

In order to assist the company and help avoid bankruptcy, the Mutual General of National Education (MGEN) took over management of LMDE’s student insurance in February. Though the Cour des Comptes has said it is too early to draw conclusions from this relationship, it has noted some instances of favoritism. According to the report, children of MGEN officials have received priority treatment when calling or writing to LMDE, an act the report denounces as “contrary to the principles of public service.”

Though LMDE is receiving the majority of the heat, the Court is not ignoring other student insurance mutuals. Referencing the fact that the insurance group CPAM has no guarantee for reimbursements to its student subscribers, the preliminary report notes that the “student mutuals seem significantly less productive” than France’s primary social security groups. The Court further noted that the sheer number of malfunctions in the student social security system calls for an overhaul of the entire student insurance structure, suggesting that it might be best for students to return to the protection of France’s general social security.

Talk of changing the system has already entered government discussions, when the Senate’s Committee on Social Affairs proposed in December 2012 that the student insurance groups should be unified into one large organization. The appeal of such a system, the Senate report said, would be the elimination of any competition between social security mutuals for the business of student subscribers.

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  1. […] a draft report, the Cour des Comptes denounced the French student insurance group, La Mutuelle des étudiants (L…, for inefficiency and “very unsatisfactory” service. The student insurance group received an […]

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