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Cross-border healthcare should not lead to "treatment tourism"


29 Sep 2008


Trade & Society
Health & Consumers
Social Europe & Jobs
EU Priorities 2020

Proposed legislation aiming to facilitate cross-border access to healthcare for EU patients came under scrutiny at the European Parliament this morning.  Speaking during the debate, Italian GUE/NGL MEP Roberto Muscacchio said that this proposal ran the risk of "becoming a Bolkestein 2 for healthcare".

"What we should be doing as a matter of priority is to ensure that people are provided with the best possible treatment in their own countries. Measures like this only serve the interests of those seeking to speculate on our health like insurers. We need to focus on the universality of healthcare. We have a right to this, it is a public service and it should remain available at the highest quality in all EU countries."

Swedish GUE/NGL MEP Eva-Britt Svensson said she was opposed to any legislation in this field. "Healthcare should remain the absolute remit of Member States." With this directive, patients will be able to engage in "treatment tourism" and that is not right. "It would mean that a small number of people, gifted in languages could go abroad for treatment and would exclude disadvantaged sections of the population such as the elderly or those with a handicap." She concluded: "Of course we should have a right to health care in other Member States, but this right already exists without any new legislation."

On the other hand, Czech GUE/NGL MEP Jiří Maštálka welcomed a directive that would bring down barriers in the EU saying that "we are finding solutions that help to draw us closer to our citizens". However, he stressed the need to provide patients with legal protection, to ensure that the Commission is not granted new competences in this field and to ensure patient mobility for all, not people who are in non-critical situations. "This should be the focus of our discussions," he concluded.

We are in danger of creating a 'two-team Europe' warned Søren Søndergaard (GUE/NGL, Denmark). "The A team, to which everyone in this room belongs, has the knowledge and resources to go and seek the best specialists and pay the transport costs." Then there are the less fortunate, he continued, those at the bottom of the pile, who risk being forced to accept the leftovers. "The EU is becoming more and more like the US in terms of our health system and that's why we should guard against creating this kind of two-tier system," MEP Søndergaard concluded.

Gianfranco Battistini +32 475 64 66 28
Gay Kavanagh +32  473 842 320


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