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Wednesday, December 19th 2007

To Promote Health Tourism

A new EU proposal, in it’s current form, would have member states guarantee health care costs no matter where their citizens are in Europe.

The commission was due to announce that that anyone who could not have “appropriate care” for their condition in their own country “without undue delay, will be authorised to go abroad, and any additional costs of treatment will be covered by public funds”.

Basically: think you’re queue to get that hip replaced is too long in the UK? Hope on over to France to have it done, pay for it and when you get home the UK Department of Health would have to write you a check to reimburse you for it.

Not every face is smiling with the proposal.

Anticipating a frosty reception, the commission was expected to propose giving member states prior authorisation of reimbursement for a hospital stay abroad.

For that to happen, a country would have to provide evidence that the number of patients seeking hospital care abroad would affect the planning of their home country’s hospital sector.


Non-hospital treatment would not require prior agreement.

As the BBC Euroblog says,

[The plan] would be pretty radical, and mean that Britain would have to adapt to a much more continental insurance-based system. But there is a potential opt-out.

If a Government can provide evidence that the impact of the law would undermine planning in their health service then they can partially opt out of the scheme.

They would be allowed to insist that patients get the green light from the health service before they travel.

It’s widely thought that this clause has been stuck in to satisfy the British Government.

Indeed, pretty radical and ridiculous (I bet you didn’t see that opinion coming from me). Although I suppose if you’re already guaranteeing health care within your borders, it isn’t a real philosophical jump to guarantee it outside of them.

It does however threaten the entire NHS model, which until the date this is enacted has never had to deal with reimbursement; never had to act as a real payer.