Although health services cannot cross EU borders, the patients can choose where to get treatment. That is the prospect worrying governments all over the bloc. The European Commission is entering into knuckle-biting discussions about how European rules will govern the health sector in the future. This comes against the backdrop of a decision in May by the EU’s highest court that said a Briton who had hip surgery in France should be reimbursed by her national authorities – she had faced a year’s wait at home. Consumer protection commissioner Markos Kyprianu has launched broad-based consultations on a matter which carries massive implications for Member States’ treasuries.
British Euro-parliamentarian Jean Lambert, with the Green party, spoke to EuroNews about this in Strasbourg: “I think we know the Commission has problems, that Member States will have very strong views on anything which looks as if it is touching their ability to control their own health budgets. So, I think the Commission is torn between the free marketers and what the Member States will want.”
The hotly controversial EU directive on opening up the cross-border market in services excludes the health sector. But citizens will have the right to free movement. The sensitive complications remain to be worked out. The so-called Bolkestein directive comes up for a final reading in the parliament, with proposed amendments, in mid-November.