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European agreement on patient mobility on its way

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European agreement on patient mobility on its way


After years of haggling, European health ministers have agreed on crossborder medical healthcare, a prickly topic that still needs European parliament approval.

What are the main points?

Establishing when crossborder healthcare should be allowed and how it should be paid for. That is the aim of the European directive on patient mobility.

Europeans can already go to another EU country for treatment as long as they clear it with their insurers and pay the costs up front.

The Commission’s bill enshrines this principle and fixes the cost repayment to the patient at the same amount that would be payable in his or her country of residence for the same or similar treatment.

As for prior authorisation requests to insurers, in future they will only be required for treatment that includes at least one night in hospital, sophisticated equipment, or in cases where the influx of foreign patients needs to be regulated.

Some people are already worried about “medical tourism” which they believe could create imbalances in the health systems of in-demand countries. Another question raised is that of cross-border retirees, who are particularly numerous in southern Europe and who require treatment regularly. The future directive says their costs should be met by the country in which they are registered with social security.

Spain’s Health Minister, Trinidad Jimenez, explains:

“If you have a resident living in a particular country and if he moves back to his own country to receive treatment, then in that particular case, it will be up to the country of origin to cover the cost of treatment.”

The text still needs to be approved by the European parliament, which has lodged several amendments. The Belgian presidency of the EU will will have to reach a compromise between member states and MEPs in the second half of 2010.

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