History: first laws

Originating from mutual assistance societies, CM has evolved over time into a dynamic organization that is active in many areas. A look back.

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Twilight zone

In the first half of the 19th century, the first local health insurance funds were established in Belgium under the name 'mutual assistance societies'. They were small-scale health insurance companies that were mainly organized within one professional group. After the French Revolution they were banned for a while. Many health insurance funds operated in a legal twilight zone until well into the 19th century. The societies collected contributions from their members and distributed the support in different ways. Sick members, widows, disabled or orphans could receive a refund. Some funds also provided vocational training or supported an unemployment fund. The boundary between mutual health insurance and trade union was very vague.

Act of 1851

In the 1840s, Belgium was hit by a severe economic crisis. Failed harvests and economic setbacks left the population impoverished. The need for social assistance increased rapidly. The Belgian government was looking for a solution. In 1851, Parliament approved the first law on mutual assistance societies . They could now acquire legal personality. Because they had to meet strict conditions, only few companies were recognized.

The first mutual insurance companies did not calculate contributions and benefits on a systematic basis. In difficult times the board increased contributions, in good years it distributed surpluses. The risks covered differed from greenhouse to greenhouse. Most companies gave members compensation if they were unable to work due to illness. This amount was usually only paid after the third day of illness for a maximum of six months. Only a few companies also reimbursed doctor and pharmacist costs.

Explosive growth

From 1885 onwards the number of mutual assistance societies grew explosively. At the end of 1885 there were 204 recognized societies, by 1893 there were already 546. The number of Christian health insurance companies in particular grew strongly. Until 1880, most societies had no philosophical slant. Catholics and liberals ran the greenhouses together. The rise of socialism changed that. Mutual funds started to profile themselves more strongly ideologically and the local clergy often took a prominent place. Yet the impact of the organizations remained rather limited: on average they had around a hundred members.

Act of 1894

A new wave of social dissatisfaction and new ideas that found acceptance in Catholic circles gave rise to a new law on mutual assistance societies in 1894. By relaxing the strict recognition conditions from the 1851 law, the government tried to encourage health insurance funds. She also developed a model that improved the management and finances of many companies.

From 1898 the government provided subsidies for recognized companies. Provinces and municipalities also sometimes granted subsidies to health insurance companies. The measures were effective: in 1895 Belgium had 734 recognized companies with a total of 87,312 members.