Monday 21 April 2014

Foreign medical care system to ease with new law

A NEW EU law is expected to cut down on the amount of red tape Irish people who apply to have medical treatment abroad will have to undergo.

The European Commission in Dublin said the new law on patients' rights and healthcare in another EU country has entered into force.

However, while it should make the process clearer, it does not give any extra rights to treatment abroad for patients on waiting lists for example, and people must still undergo an application process.

A spokeswoman said "The law clarifies patients' rights to access safe and good quality treatment across EU borders, and be reimbursed for it.

"Patients travelling to another EU country for medical care will enjoy equal treatment with the citizens of the country in which they are treated. If they are entitled to that healthcare at home, then they will be reimbursed by their home country.

"Their reimbursement will be up to the cost of that treatment at home. In some cases, they may need to seek authorisation before travelling for treatment, in particular if the treatment requires an overnight stay at a hospital or highly specialised and cost-intensive healthcare."

Commenting on the law, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said it "does not in itself establish any new entitlements or rights to treatment".

She pointed out while the vast majority of EU patients receive healthcare in their own country, and prefer to do so, the new directive seeks to provide a clear and transparent framework for the provision of cross-border healthcare within the EU.

This is for occasions where patients seek healthcare in another member state rather than in their home country. "The directive, therefore, supplements the rights that patients already have at EU level on the coordination of social security schemes.

The Commision said benefits included "more choice and better information to patients".

Patients must receive all information they need to make an informed choice, for example, on quality and safety of healthcare, through national contact points, which will be set up in all member states.

All patients are entitled to: "Properly reasoned decisions, and to appeal if they feel their rights have not been respected.

"All patients have the right to complain and to seek redress (and all treatment must be covered by liability insurance or a similar guarantee). And patients have the right to a copy of their medical records."

A patient who wants to get treatment abroad must still apply for prior authorisation. National health authorities can refuse authorisation if the treatment in question, or the healthcare provider in question, could present a risk for the patient.

This comes against a background of a huge rise in the number of applicants for the scheme, up from 481 in 2011 to 858 in 2012.

Irish Independent

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