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The EU "right" of health care - this should be fun to watch
Posted by: McQ on Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Bogged down with a failing health care system with huge waiting times, Brits are sure they've been saved by a new EU directive:
Patients will be able to escape NHS queues by demanding treatment anywhere in the European Union without the prior approval of a doctor, under proposals to guarantee health rights unveiled today in Brussels.

The NHS would then be duty bound to refund the British cost of the procedure under the new rules for cross-border healthcare.

Today’s proposed EU directive will give patients in all 27 member states the same rights to treatment on the NHS as British patients. It also guarantees that the full cost of treatment abroad will be refunded when an NHS professional has agreed that it is necessary for the patient to go overseas.
We here in the US call this "the Canadian Plan".

The happy, cheery Health Commissioner said:
“Patients will be able to receive treatment in any member state, which will be reimbursed at home up to the level of the same or similar treatment in their health system,” said Androula Vassiliou, the Health Commissioner.

“They will not need prior authorisation. However, if unpredictable cross-border healthcare becomes a problem, the system could put into place a system of prior authorisation to safeguard the system.
What "system" is being talked about here? Given this directive, the "system" is the "EU system" in its entirety. However, what Vassiliou seems to be saying is they reserve the right to reject (through requiring prior authorization) patients should they deem the other country's "system" to be in jeopardy. And that seems to be a bit of a contradiction doesn't it?

But that doesn't stop the happy talk, does it?
She added: “Patients from any country will enjoy equal treatment with the nationals of the country in which they are being treated and cannot be discriminated against.”

This means that in countries with long waiting lists, patients from abroad will have to join the queue.

She added: “It will allow excessive demand from one country to be met by excessive capacity in another country. This is the essence of the co-operation.”
It also means having to pay private providers as well.

You wait until eastern European patients start flooding western European medical facilities. Or Brits head into France and Germany while the UK's NHS pulls a US Medicare trick and refuses to reimburse French and German medical institutions at the rate they require.

My guess is a system of "authorization" will be in place so fast it will make your head swim ("I'm sorry, we don't take NHS patients").

And since, in Europe, health care is a "right" now, how about this?
Dr Terry John, chairman of the British Medical Association’s International Committee, said: “We believe patients are entitled to safe, high-quality healthcare. Usually they want to be treated as close to home as possible, but it is understandable why some people want to seek treatment abroad.

“However, these proposals must not be allowed to erode the fundamental values of universality, accessibility and equality that should underlie healthcare. Patient mobility must not just be for the wealthy and educated.
Yes friends, if you want to escape those queues in the UK you have to pay your own travel and accommodation costs.

So, as I'm sure we'll see argued, this ruling is mostly for the rich! And yes, you're right - you can see it coming a mile off - travel and accommodation costs for medical care will soon be a "right" as well.

One of the commenters to the article says:
What an excellent idea! I live in Germany and only wish that my family back in the UK could experience the great healthcare that is available here.

Diana Taylor, Augsburg, Germany
Oh, not to worry Ms. Taylor - they and half of Britain will most likely be on your doorstep "experiencing" it before you know what hit you.

Ah, the law of unintended consequences is licking its chops on this one.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Yup, it don’t take a genius to see this train wreck coming.

Can’t wait till we get Obamacare! I want to be just like the Euros.
Written By: kyleN
Step 1: Low cost country’s doctors and hospitals advertise their attractive rates for doing various procedures. "Save 3,000 pounds on your hip replacement! 7 day recuperation at world class European spa inclusive"

Step 2: NHS doctor willing to give referral for an under the table fee. Or perhaps owns part of the company providing the service.

Step 3: Patient flies on cheap Ryan Air flights (these are very, very cheap) to get hip replaced and pockets 3,000 pounds minus the bribe.

Written By: Harun
URL: http://
Actually this is unlike the Canadian system.

Often if you seek treatment outside the Province or Canada, they will not reimburse you any portion of the expense.

There used to be a system set up like that where a group across the border from Detroit was arranging treatment in Detroit. This was for bypass surgery that had waiting lists about 4 months and growing. The group helped patients get scheduled in a Detroit hospital where the doctors and hospital waved part of their costs and then the group would help you obtain reimbursement up to the amount it would have cost the Ontario system.

The wait list leveled off at 8 months and because it was ’stable’ at a 8 month wait, the Ontario government withdrew participation in the program. You got treatment in Ontario or you paid the whole way yourself.

Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
Actually this is unlike the Canadian system.
Just a bit of snark, jpm ... don’t get too wrapped around the axle over it.
Written By: McQ
The Brits can now say that they are "going off on a medical holiday" and be happily euthanized at clinics across the continent.
Written By: Martin McPhillips
I know. I just hate it when you keep cutting the Canadian system a break. :p
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
"met by excessive capacity in another country"

Which country has excessive capacity? The bean counters in that country must be slipping.
As I contemplate the new bureaucracy needed, and the potential for fraud, I begin to think this system was inspired by Rube Goldberg. It is obvious the Europeans think as highly of him as a health care systems designer as they do of Jerry Lewis as a comedian, although I personally think Rube Goldberg is funnier.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I think JPM’s point was that the Canadian system was far worse :)

I remember a friend telling me about the Ontario guidelines for GPs seeing patients. No more than 5 mins or 5 questions before you toss them out the door. So the doctor had to figure out what was wrong in the 5 mins or he could not bill past that time.

He found this out because his wife was 3 months pregnant and she started bleeding. So she went to the doctor (and not her regular doc who was on vacation at the time) and the doc having only a short time and not bothering to ask about the pregnancy, told her she had a kidney infections. After trying to explain that she was pregnant and it could not possibly be that, she was shushed out the door. He was embarrassed by the whole thing and then tried to cover it up.

Canada’s health care system is something that no one should have foisted on them.
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
It will be interesting to watch the effect on local health services as those EU countries where medical care is much less (the £500 Romania vs. £8000 UK example) raise their prices to take advantage the the money available. We all know that’s what will happen.

Next headline;

New EU Law Made Healthcare Unfordable to Locals. Threatens to Bankrupt Some Systems.
Written By: Jay
URL: http://
Watermelon ’has similar effects to Viagra’
Experts claim that the red-fleshed fruit contains an ingredient that affects the body’s blood vessels in the same way as when a man takes the sex drug.
Researchers believe that the juicy fruit could be used to help men who suffer from erectile dysfunction.
.. may this explains .. ahmm .. this ..
Lili Von Shtupp: Is it true how zey say zat you people are... gifted?
[Lights go out, sound of zipper opening]
Lili Von Shtupp: Oh. It’s twue. It’s twue. It’s twue, it’s twue!
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
Neo, the story is that the next line was cut from the movie.

"Lady, I hate to disappoint you, but that’s my elbow."
Written By: jorgxmckie
URL: http://

Yeah, but how many do you have to eat?
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
If Europe wants to turn itself into one open free flowing super-country, they have to unify also their health care. But I think it’s question of many years. I am more interested in next steps here, in Canada and in USA. As a Toronto life insurance broker I am naturally fan of private insurance, however, doors are still closed in Canada. But I think Castonguay’s words helped to promote this question...
Written By: Life Insurance Canada

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