This summer, the EU received a number of complaints from patients traveling across Europe who failed to receive emergency care with their EHIC card. Many of the cases came from Spain, where doctors turned away or charged patients full price for the care and procedures provided, leaving European patients concerned over their access to medical care throughout the continent.
Starting in October, European patients seeking cross-border healthcare will finally get the support they need when traveling throughout the EU and EEA for medical procedures. For British patients, the NHS will release a directive to regulate the administration process behind funding such procedures. The directive will be used to inform patients of their entitlements to receiving healthcare throughout the EEA (including Switzerland). Each participating nation is required to have its own laws to implement the directive by October 25th.
The EU and EEA hope these regulations will help establish a framework for patients to receive care, and help clarify the rules behind how a patient seeks care outside their own country. Within the directive is also a clause clarifying who is responsible for upholding the quality and safety standards of care in cross-border settings.
Shedding some light on the process of cross-border care, an NHS official said, “As a general rule, patients will be allowed to receive healthcare in another member state and be reimbursed up to the level of costs that would have been assumed by the member state of affiliation, if this healthcare had been provided on its territory.”
This process will include two routes of seeking funding for care:
- S2 Route: A direct arrangement between the NHS and the state healthcare provider in the member state where funding methods must be agreed prior to receiving care.
- The EU directive route where patients pay the costs of treatment abroad and then claim reimbursements from the NHS when they return. Clinical commission groups will replace primary care trusts in the process of administering funding.
Under this framework, patients can travel freely throughout the EEA and Switzerland seeking the best-priced care, top-quality doctors and hospitals, and avoid long waiting lines for procedures and treatment offered elsewhere.
To assist patients with the directives introduction, the NHS has released a set of guidelines patients and providers to learn more about their role in seeking cross-border healthcare. The guide can be downloaded here.