January 1, 2015: one Social Security for Wallonia and one for Brussels

  • The state reform transferred parts of Social Security to communities and regions: welfare, nursing homes and part of health care
  • How will these responsibilities be managed in the future? The four French-speaking party presidents have been negotiating privately for several months.
  • They have decided and will present their model for Social Security, which favors the regional option, at noon. Here are the details.

They have been negotiating in the strictest confidentiality. At noon, Paul Magnette, Charles Michel, Benoît Lutgen and Emily Hoyos will present the “intra-francophone agreement” to the French Community Parliament. Le Soir reported on its substance in mid-June. Now, the accord has been finalized and here are its contents:

A regionally based model. The four party presidents, who have been actively negotiating since the beginning of the year, had to come to agreement on responsibilities tied to Social Security, including welfare, nursing homes and part of health care. The first question to be decided was whether to base the system at the Community or Regional level. There were two options for the negotiators. They could leave these responsibilities to the French Community. The advantage is that the system, including rules, rates, structures and partners, would be the same for all French-speakers. The disadvantage is that such a system would not be feasible in Brussels, where the institutional agreement was to grant responsibility for welfare and all other programs directly linked to people to the bilingual Cocom. Therefore, the regional option was required. When the responsibilities are transferred, the French Community will grant them to the Walloon Region and to Brussels, via one of the community commissions. The advantage is that it will be clearer to users: they will go to their regional institutions. The inconvenience is that this plan will open the door to differing systems within the French-speaking community. In the future, rules and rates could differ based on whether someone lives in Brussels or Wallonia.

Strong ties between French-speakers for efficiency’s sake. An umbrella structure will be created that will require ministers, administrators and management groups, both Walloon and Brussels-based, to work together. The objective of this structure is to avoid potentially impossible situations for Walloons and residents of Brussels. If a family moves from Saint-Gilles to Nivelles, for example, their family welfare has to follow them, so the two regions have to exchange information, their information systems have to be compatible, and their grant rules and rates have to be coordinated. Similarly, situations where handicapped individuals or those in nursing homes move from Wallonia to Brussels and have to have their administrative files recreated or, worse, lose their assistance, must be avoided at all costs. That is the reason for the idea of an overarching structure.

Management organizations copied from the federal program. The party presidents also decided to create two public interest organizations (PIO), one for Wallonia and the other for Brussels. The new policies will not be managed within the regional organizations. These new organizations will be distinct and unions and health funds will be present, exactly as it is done at the federal level, through Social Security’s representational management. These two PIOs – true Walloon and Brussels Social Security offices – will be divided into several branches, including health care, assistance to individuals and family welfare. For the individual, this will be the sole point of contact for all regionalized responsibilities. In concrete terms, the citizen of Wallonia will be connected to the Walloon office, which will handle his or her case, even if, for example, he or she has received treatment at a hospital in Brussels. The objective here is to try to guarantee a maximum level of efficiency to the individual, sparing them from administrative red tape, or worse, interruptions in Social Security benefits.

Is it all settled? The agreement has to be translated into several legal documents that will finalize the last details, but the system itself has now been achieved.

VERONIQUE LAMQUIN

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