The transposition period for the Cross-border Healthcare Directive came to an end on 25 October, however it has been reported that many Member States are not prepared and have not set up vital information and control resources.
An article published on Euractiv on 24 October revealed that some EU countries are falling so far behind that it could take years for them to fully comply with the new EU legislation and create the required control centres and information websites. Such Member States thus risk infringement action by the European Commission and regardless of whether or not they have put into place the required ’operational infrastructure’, they are required to reimburse other Member States when individuals have used another country’s health services.
While ’healthcare tourism’ is a controversial discourse which has caused worries about the ’ability to cope’ in the more affluent EU countries, the Commission does not expect this to become a problem given that the directive applies exclusively to pre-planned healthcare, i.e. neither does it cover spontaneous travel decisions based on personal preferences nor emergency medical treatments. Moreover, treatments that require patients to remain in the receiving Member State overnight or that involve more costly interventions will require prior authorisation.
Moreover, as stated in the EPHA Briefing on the Cross-border Healthcare Directive, ’’it does not apply to health services related to long-term care, it does not cover organ transplants or seek to alter the existing laws on internet sales of medicinal products and devices, and it also does not apply to public vaccination programmes. Moreover, it does not confer any other, non-health related cross-border rights on patients, e.g. residency rights or social benefits.’’
What the Directive does however achieve is putting into place a solid legal framework for patients wishing or obliged to engage in cross-border healthcare that removes many of the past uncertainties related to reimbursement and eligibility and allows them to make informed decisions, thereby strengthening patients’ rights.
it is now up to the Member States to demonstrate their commitment to patient rights and intra-European cooperation in the field of healthcare, and this will be looked at very closely by the public health community.
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