Fabian Demicoli

Cross-border health care

The Council of Ministers responsible for employment, social policy, health and consumer affairs agreed on a draft Directive concerning patients' rights in cross-border health care. This agreement was backed by Spain, which is holding the Presidency of the Council of Ministers and which came up with a compromise backed by the other Member States, including Malta. Spain feared that it would be burdened with the costs of healthcare for thousands of northern European pensioners living in retirement on the Spanish coast.

Minister of Health Dr Joe Cassar stated that "this directive will provide clearer rights and legal assurance for the patients who wish to pursue treatment across the borders." Health care will be provided to patients who are EU citizens in any Member State, provided that they are entitled to this treatment in the country of which they are citizens. Among the provisions found in the Directive, Member States have to ensure, via national contact points, that patients from other EU Member States receive information on safety and quality standards on their territory. Member States may "limit the application of the rules on reimbursement for cross-border health care" if it proves unworkable. Cooperation between Member States in the field of health care must also be strengthened and there has to be greater recognition of prescriptions issued in another Member State.

"This is an important step that allows us to move forward on this," said John Dalli, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy. This agreement clears the way for a final version of the law to be adopted in the autumn.  Information at MEUSAC News

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