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New EU law addresses health care across borders

brussels bureau

New EU law addresses health care across borders


A new EU law will spell out patients’ rights when it comes to medical treatment in other member countries for planned operations as well as emergencies.

Cross-Border Healthcare clarifies how EU citizens can access medical services across the EU. The law comes into force on Friday October 25.

However, patients will have to ask for authorisation from health authorities at home before some treatments such as specialised and expensive procedures.

Authorisation can be denied if the treatment can be provided at home within a reasonable time limit, but patients can argue their case.

“A citizen can challenge his own government if he feels that the authorisation has been unreasonably withheld,” said EU Commissioner for Health Tonio Borg.

National contact points set up in each country will allow people to get information on their rights and how the legislation works when it comes to paying in advance.

“The patient’s national health authority will reimburse the same amount as it would if you were receiving the health care in your own country,” explained Francoise Grossetete, an MEP from the centre-right group and spokesperson for the legislation.

The law is a step forward, but there could still be issues preventing it from being as effective as intended, according to Kaisa Immonen-Charalambous from the European Organisation of Patients.

“Patients will be asked to pay upfront for the treatment and they will be reimbursed afterwards, and we feel that this will became a barrier to many patients who need to access cross-border health care,” Immonen-Charalambous told euronews.

At the moment, only one percent of public spending on health care is used for cross-border treatments and that is mainly for tourists receiving emergency treatment. The new law aims to improve cooperation between countries and increase patient choice.

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