Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Health Insurance French Style

No blog yesterday as I had an early night. The reason being that I had to get up this morning necessitating the ‘setting of the alarm clock’. I’ve probably only set the alarm 4 or 5 times in the last 8 months. So it was a real shock to the system this morning when I was woken not by the alarm but by the telephone. My friend Ann who was coming with me to Villeneuve this morning had very sensibly rung to make sure I was up. My alarm was set but due to the power cuts I’ve had over the last few days, my clock was running nearly half an hour slow. One very quick tea and croissant later and we are ready to go.

The reason; I’ve been trying to register for health care more or less since I got here. Once I’d been officially registered as a farmer I though that would be it, but no. The other week I received a letter to say that while I was now a member of the MSA (the health and benefits for farmers society) I wasn’t entitled to join the health scheme. No reason given of course, so today my friend, Ann, and I went to the local MSA office in Villeneuve to find out why.

It turns out that under the vagaries of French law, you need to have a certain amount of land to qualify. This amount is not standardised but goes by commune (parish). In my commune it’s set at 11.5 hectares. I have 11.33 hectares therefore I didn’t qualify

Well Ann and I just looked at each other in disbelief. The gentleman who was dealing with us said not to panic, as there were ways round this and asked me what I was growing on the land. Currently it’s 5 hectares of cereal. The area I want to turn into coppice/productive woodland wouldn’t help. I told him I wanted to do a small bit of market gardening and he said “No way”! His advice was never ever to say I was doing market gardening as it would mean that I would have to pay much more tax, (another of the joys of the French tax system, if you do more than one thing, and you have to be registered to do anything, you have to pay National Insurance for each thing for which you are registered). His way out of it was to register 0.5 hectare as vegetable production. I’m covered for that as a farmer and….any land registered for that use has a weighting. Each hectare miraculously becomes a nominal 3.25 hectare. So my half hectare suddenly becomes a little over 1.55 and puts me over the magic 11.5 hectare barrier. So I should be covered – but I’m not celebrating until I have the official letter saying that I’m covered.

I also got the last piece of roofing onto the alpaca shelter and hammered down with Ann’s help. Yesterday when I was doing the primary fixing I had my usual supervisor, Snowy.

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