What is it all about?

 

The Directive extends freedom of choice in healthcare to a new generation of Europeans who are accustomed to ease of travel and buying goods and services from any part of the European Union. The basic right to healthcare can be summed up as: “If you are entitled to healthcare in your own country, you can choose to get treated in another EU country”, whether your healthcare is provided by the state or by a private insurer.

The essence of the right to freedom of movement is that the European Union is seen as a single community of member states, where land borders assume less importance. A citizen of the European Union has the right to travel, live and work in any member state.

It also means that many people enjoy the right to obtain medical treatment in any member state, including hospital services, dental, ophthalmology and other treatments, and to be treated on the same basis that they would be in their home nation.

The EU Directive doesn’t introduce any new rights

The EU Directive does not give patients any rights to cross border healthcare that they don’t have already. It doesn’t introduce any new rights. These rights have already been established by the European Court of Justice. What the Directive aims to do is to establish a framework within which cross border healthcare will operate and to set the rules regarding how patients will access care and what kind of treatment they are entitled to outside of their own country.

For example, under these arrangements, migrant workers who are formally resident in one country, can return to their country of origin to have medical treatment near their families or to have children; pensioners living abroad can choose to have medical treatment in that country; or individuals can avoid long waiting lists at home by choosing treatment in another European Union country with spare capacity.

However…. there are very few EU citizens who understand what their rights are to treatment elsewhere within the EU and few know how to exercise those rights. In truth, most people are still not aware that they may choose treatment in another EU state.

Hospitals, clinics and medical tourism providers need to understand what’s going on

Intuition Communication, the publisher of Treatment Abroad and International Medical Travel Journal, has participated in the various consultations and workshops that have been part of the implementation of the EU Directive within the UK. One positive step that we have taken to increase patient awareness of their rights under the EU Directive is to create a “Your rights to treatment in Europe - A UK patient’s guide to the EU Directive”. The guide is available online on Treatment Aboard (as web pages and as a PDF download) at www.treatmentabroad.com/eu. We also provide a free copy of the printed guide.

Hospitals, clinics and medical tourism providers may find the guide useful, if they want to understand how the Directive works. Although the guide is aimed at UK patients, the principles apply to all EU citizens. Providers may want to consider promoting their services to UK patients who can receive funding from the NHS for their treatment or to other EU citizens who may be interested in travelling to their country for treatment, funded by their our state system or health insurer.

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