As a European Union citizen, you have a right to seek treatment in other EU countries on the same terms and at the same cost as people living in those countries and you are entitled to be reimbursed for care abroad by your home 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.
The EU Legal Framework
In March 2011, the European Directive on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare was adopted by the European Parliament.
The Directive has two main purposes:
1) To clarify the rights of patients to obtain certain planned healthcare in any EU member state and establish the limits of those rights,
2) To clarify the position of the member states regarding their legal obligations and assist them in managing the system effectively.
The new Directive on cross border healthcare means that exercising your rights should now be simpler and more straightforward. You should have a much clearer idea of what you are entitled to, and what restrictions your own country can put on these rights. It is important to realize that the new Directive does not give European Union citizens any new rights to cross border healthcare. In essence, you are entitled to obtain healthcare services in any EU state, as long as you are entitled to the same services in your own country, and as long as you are not able to obtain such services within a reasonable amount of time at home.
Essential considerations when choosing treatment
If you are considering seeking care in another EU country, the first thing you should do is discuss your plans with your doctor. Your doctor can provide valuable advice about treatment options and whether or not they necessary. Your doctor should also oversee your aftercare so discuss with him or her how to transfer medical records to the member state where you plan to seek treatment.
In principal, you can seek cross border healthcare without prior authorization. However, provisions in the EU directive allow member states to require prior authorization in certain instances. These include treatments that:
Require an overnight hospital stay of at least one night;
Require use of highly specialized and cost-intensive medical infrastructure or medical equipment, and,
Present a particular risk for the patient or the population.
In the UK, for example, prior authorization is required for most hospital treatments. Member States are required to publish a list of healthcare services that are subject to prior authorization. Therefore, it is important to check with your domestic insurance carrier prior to traveling abroad.
Costs and reimbursement
The directive provides that member states charge cross border patients the same fees as domestic patients for “comparable medical situations.” This means that if you want to get a hip replacement in Croatia you will pay the same fee as local patients and the cost will be covered by your domestic insurance carrier at whichever rate is higher – the State where you are insured or the State where you are receiving treatment.
After treatment, you should be welcomed back into your home country healthcare system for aftercare on the same basis as if you had been treated there in the first place.
What if something goes wrong?
If you have a bad treatment outcome you have the right to file a complaint and seek remedies according to the legislation of the member state where treatment was provided. It is important, therefore, that you contact the NCP of the country where you will be seeking treatment to clarify your rights and the legal and administrative options available to you to settle an eventual dispute.
Who can help?
If you are coming from United Kingdom and you would like to have a surgery in our hospital, MedRefund can ensure that you get the cost of this treatment reimbursed by the NHS.