Nadine Chard’Homme, President of FOCUS Fibromyalgie Belgique, shared with ENFA the news that a Royal Decree in Belgium which drastically reduced access to physiotherapy has been overturned. Please take a look at their press release below, modified for clarity in language.
“We are happy to announce that, in its judgment number 245.099 dating July 4, 2019, the Council of State has overturned the royal decree dating October 17, 2016 that modified the system of reimbursement of physiotherapy treatments for people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
It is an unheard of victory for all people with fibromyalgia, as well as for the physiotherapists, doctors and health professionals who treat them.
The result is that the former system will be applied immediately, with retroactive effect.
For the record, the former system included fibromyalgia and CFS in the list of chronic conditions that require a long-term treatment, which meant that those patients were entitled to 60 sessions (30 minutes) of physiotherapy every year at the lowest tariff.
The new system took fibromyalgia out of that list and limited reimbursement of physiotherapy to 18 sessions (45 minutes) a year, once in the patient’s year for that specific pathology. Beyond those 18 sessions, the patients had to pay the full price to get non-fibromyalgia specific sessions.
FOCUS Fibromyalgie Belgique’s general secretary, Yves Ralet, worked out that the loss for patients who required 60 sessions a year represented 40% from the second year of treatment. This financial load substantially limited their access to physiotherapy treatment.
Many stakeholders (recognized experts, patients’ representatives and the Union of Belgian Physiotherapists) required explanations and asked for reasonable accommodation. Several Members of Parliament addressed the Minister for Health in Parliament. As soon as she heard about the new decree, the former President of ENFA, Souzi Makri, offered to write a letter to the Minister of Health to reinforce the struggle in Belgium.
Dr Masquelier (Doctor in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation), Mr Mazid (Member of the Union of Belgian Physiotherapists), as well as the multidisciplinary team of University Hospital of Louvain (UCL) in Godinne have been vital forces in this case, beside lawyers (MM Cambier) and the volunteers of FOCUS Fibromyalgie Belgique.
Due to the intransigence of the authorities, an action at the Council of State became inevitable. Courageously, FOCUS Fibromyalgie Belgique introduced an action for annulment on January 20, 2017. The Union of Belgian Physiotherapists decided to support that action as a second applicant. This initiative had a twofold objective: re-establishing rights for people with fibromyalgia and informing civil society about the real stake and importance of physiotherapy in the treatment of this condition.
The new regime introduced a difference of treatment compared to patients suffering from other conditions that remained in the list of chronic diseases and continued being entitled to the 60 sessions a year, every year.
The Council of State recognised this difference of treatment unfavorable to people with fibromyalgia and rejected the arguments of the Belgian state, judging, among other things, that they “do not see either how such a measure would enable to meet the objective of individualisation of treatment that the adverse parties claim to pursue, or how this objective could not be achieved through measures that would be less detrimental to the rights of the concerned patients, particularly in view of the lasting character of the condition they suffer from.“