18 MAR 2011
Life should soon become a little easier for thousands of cross-border expats who divide their time between Britain and a second home near the Mediterranean.
By Peter Pallot | The Telegraph
From 2013, they should be able to have medical treatment within an EU state and reclaim the cost of treatment from the NHS.
Ratification in Brussels of the Cross Border Healthcare Directive
should be particularly valuable to those with two homes. They will be able to have elective surgery at a state hospital wherever they are, rather than having their itinerary determined by a future appointment, which can be subject to last-minute cancellation.
Implementation of the directive - originally scheduled for 2011 - has been hampered by disputes between countries. And even 2013 is an uncertain implementation date as individual states may not pass legislation until later. (Spain, for instance, was years late in implementing insurance laws aimed at increasing competition and protecting consumers.)
A sticking point has been whether patients using the proposed system should be reimbursed in full. The UK has successfully resisted full repayment to the patient whatever the bill. Patients will be reimbursed only to the cost of the procedure in their home state. A doctor in the patient's home country will need to approve treatment in advance. Specialised treatments will be subject to more rigorous advanced approval, and organ transplants and long-term care are excluded.
Fears have been voiced that the change will lead to extra administration costs. Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, complained: "The rules will turn the UK's NHS into a bureaucratic nightmare. Extra staff will be needed to chase up money owed from countries such as Romania."
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