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EU plans 'single market' for healthcare


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EU plans 'single market' for healthcare

Patients across the EU will be allowed to opt for healthcare in any member state under new plans.

The European commission says EU citizens should be entitled to healthcare anywhere in the union if the treatment is allowed in their own country.

If EU ministers approve the measure, patients could be travelling routinely abroad for treatment by 2010.

Under the proposals, to be published in January, patients would have to pay up front for an operation in another EU country then apply to have the cost reimbursed.

The new "single market" in medical treatment is partly a response to a European legal ruling last year which stipulated that patients should be reimbursed for receiving care abroad if there are "undue delays" in getting treatment in their own country.

The ruling followed a case involving 75-year-old Briton Yvonne Watts, who paid £3,900 for a hip replacement in France because she refused to wait a year for an operation in the UK.

The NHS refused to reimburse her but EU judges said she was entitled to shop around within the union because of long waiting times for her treatment in Britain.

A European commission statement said that primary responsibility for providing healthcare still rested with a patient's national government.

But it added: "In some instances healthcare may be better provided in another member state - for rare conditions or specialised treatments for example, or in the case of border regions where the nearest appropriate facility may be in another country.

"Therefore the commission has developed a legal instrument to help realise the potential of the European dimension for healthcare."

The proposals are controversial, with some Labour MPs claiming the resultant "health tourism" would undermine the NHS. However, the Conservatives welcomed the move as freedom for NHS patients to air their views about the service.

Some experts predicted the proposals would only affect a relatively small number of patients who were well placed - particularly in south-east England - to gain treatment in mainland Europe.

Full story, Source: The Telegraph

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That's a little too early for my liking, but I can see where they're coming from. I just hope that healthcare tourism and doctor migration won't make this a knee-jerk reaction.

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doctor migration

The fact is that there are countries, like Britain and Sweden, that lack doctors. Other European countries, such as Germany and Holland have too many (specialist but are short on GPs). So it just makes sense that they get distributed around (as long as it is by market mechanisms I don't mind).

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Thing is, it's already been happening for quite a while, but mostly under the radar. Like I said, I really wouldn't mind some regulation there, I just hope they're not pushing the legislation because of this. They should take their time.

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Thing is, it's already been happening for quite a while, but mostly under the radar. Like I said, I really wouldn't mind some regulation there, I just hope they're not pushing the legislation because of this. They should take their time.

The court has already forced their hand by finding for the patient, the best they can do is make it so that it won't have strong repercussions.

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