Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Health: Euro MPs support right to reimbursement for treatment abroad

European Parliament reports MEPs have backed the right to access healthcare abroad and be reimbursed. It will cover everything from a walk-in at a doctor's or dentist's surgery to hospital and specialised care. In effect this means that patients will have greater legal certainty about their rights to get money back if treated abroad.

The new rules would envisage that for some hospital and specialised care patients must seek prior authorisation from their health authority before heading abroad. Long-term care and organ transplants would not be covered. MEPs backed the plans last week, but they must still be approved by EU ministers before they come back to Parliament.

Reimbursement same as at home

In practical terms this would mean people receive treatment abroad and are then reimbursed by their health insurer or health authority. The level of reimbursement would be equivalent to what they are entitled to in their own country.

Payment of travel and accommodation costs whilst abroad would be at the discretion of the health authority or insurer.

In a twist of fate the man who drafted the report on the proposed directive - British Conservative John Bowis - was recovering from heart surgery undertaken recently in Brussels and so was unable to present his report to MEPs. His place was taken by his colleague Philip Bushill-Matthews who told the House "everyone should receive equal access to treatment and this framework will ensure that a patient's right to treatment is based on their needs and not their means".

"Waiting for an operation is a very uncertain time for patients and the least we can do is put in place a system that will bring clarity to their situation," he said.

Rare conditions and people with disabilities

In a separate measure MEPs added special provisions for people with rare diseases. Members said patients should be reimbursed even if the treatment is not covered by their national system. Special costs for people with disabilities must also be reimbursed under certain conditions.

Given the likely complexity of such a new system the House also voted to support information points around the EU so people are aware of their rights and want to appoint a European Ombudsman to deal with any complaints.

Cutting hospital infections

In another healthcare measure MEPs backed plans to cut healthcare associated infections (HAI) which kill 37,000 people a year in Europe alone. The target set out in a report by Italian EPP-ED Member Amalia Sartori is to reduce the number of infected people 20% by 2020.
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
Putting principles before profits