Spanish patients, like all Europeans, will now be able now choose which EU country to seek treatment in. The Cabinet last week approved a decree that implements an EU directive on cross-border healthcare. Under the system, patients will advance the money for their treatment abroad, but can request a reimbursement from their own country.
The directive aims to go one step beyond the emergency treatment already covered by the European Health Card and let patients choose another member state for specific, non-emergency treatment.
Spain however has concerns:
The State Council, the government’s key advisory body, has this week warned the government that the measure may put a major strain on Spain’s resources. “Given that our country is a recipient country for tourists, it seems likely that this could lead to an increase in demand for healthcare,” the State Council report on the law change says, which could result in “longer waiting lists.”
Additionally, reimbursement will not necessarily cover the total amount charged by the foreign hospital; instead Spanish authorities will use the official rates of each regional health service. Spain does not have a common set of rates; rather, each regional government sets its own public tariffs.
It might over time lead to higher prices. Here are some other possible implications:
Spain’s private health system could be the main beneficiary of this new system…This is because “prestigious and renowned” private health centers could get added clients now that member states have to reimburse their citizens. Of course foreigners could choose the public health system, but it would mean long waiting lists under the same conditions as Spanish patients.
Medical fees at both public and private hospitals in Spain are lower than in many other European countries. “It could well be that for Scandinavia it is cheaper to send patients to Spain,” notes Rivero.
There is more here. There is plenty of further information here, but only very recently has this cross-border directive been moving to a scale where it might make a real difference. Spain for instance seems to be a country which is cheap enough, sunny enough, and reliable enough to draw significant business.