SP: Treatment Abroad Must Remain the Exception

2 July 2008

SP: Treatment Abroad Must Remain the Exception

The European Commission today presented its proposal on transfrontier patient mobility. The core of the proposal is that citizens of a member state must have the right to health care in another member state and to be compensated financially to whatever degree would be available to them in their home country. The SP supports more rights for patients but is opposed to European attempts to 'liberalise' national health systems.


The SP is pleased to see that the current proposal goes much less far than earlier versions which circulated in Brussels, specifically referring to patient mobility rather than to the freedom of establishment for health care providers emphasised in earlier Commission documents. It is now stated specifically that foreign care providers come under the national legislation of the country in which they are operating. This is in contrast to the Country of Origin principle of the European Services Directive.
Patients' Rights

Kartika LiotardSP-Euro-MP Kartika Liotard, who points out that “It was on my proposal that health care was kept out of the Services Directive,” says that she is “pleased that the Commission is no longer using patients' rights as a disguise for an attempt to force health care on to the market.” Liotard also welcomes the fact that in the case of expensive treatments member states will retain the right to impose a prior permission procedure. “Otherwise,” she points out, “it would be impossible for national authorities to, for example, calculate how many hospital beds are needed.”
Less Costly

Liotard intends to make efforts to ensure that patient mobility remains a right and not an obligation. “We don't want to see, for example, a health insurer saying to a patient that he or she has to go to Latvia for a certain treatment because it's cheaper there. People want the very best care in their own area. Going abroad for health care should remain limited to exceptional and rare treatments and to interchange between neighbouring countries' border regions. Nobody would choose to be treated far from home.” Finally, Kartika Liotard points out that member states will not shed the responsibility to ensure adequate health care for their citizens. “A country such as the Netherlands, with waiting lists, shouldn't be able to shirk its problems by sending its patients off abroad.”

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