Cross-Border Health Care : Political Groups Split on Patients' Rights Report

Article excerpt

The European Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety adopted, on 31 March, a first-reading report on patients' rights in cross-border health care by John Bowis (EPP-ED, United Kingdom). The vote was 31 in favour, three against and 20 abstentions. MEPs adopted all the compromise agreements (there were a total of 706 amendments), and they thus say that it should become "easier for patients to seek health care abroad and be properly reimbursed for its cost". Through this they back the general aim of the European Commission's original proposal. MEPs want patients to be properly informed about their rights when treated outside their home member state.

The proposal (adopted in July 2008) aims to clarify conditions under which patients may seek health care in other member states by spelling out: 1. rights to reimbursement of care provided; and 2. requirements in terms of quality, safety and effectiveness. These rights have been confirmed in EU Court of Justice judgements, but are not yet included in EU legislation.


Members of the Socialist group abstained during the final vote, since the committee did not agree to add Article 152 concerning action in the field of public health as a second legal basis for the proposal, which is based on Article 95 (internal market), and since they want clearer rules regarding prior authorisation. Bowis, however, has indicated that he was willing to negotiate with the Socialists to secure a full "cross-party' agreement during the plenary vote in the end of April. …