Magazine article European Social Policy

Public Health : Patient Mobility Yes, but Not to the Detriment of Services

Magazine article European Social Policy

Public Health : Patient Mobility Yes, but Not to the Detriment of Services

Article excerpt

The Council of EU Health and Social Affairs Ministers devoted 22 minutes of its time on 30 November to a public debate on the issue of patient mobility. A short debate, but a sufficient one nevertheless, the issue having been discussed the previous day in the afternoon and then over dinner in the context of a special informal meeting with European Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou. The aim was to ensure that all grasp the importance of responding in detail to the Commission's communication.

This discussion represents a first, highly political round, according to one participant. The majority of ministers acknowledged that "the issue of cross-border health care is just a minor part of the dossier," accounting for less than 1% of movements. All emphasised "the complexity and sensitivity of the dossier". None - apart from the Dutch minister - called with any great conviction for the development of competition. Instead, a majority emphasised on the contrary "the specificities of the sector with regard to the application of Community law (competition, internal market)". Many states (Austria, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium) are facing complaints and infringement procedures regarding state aid (pharmacies, pet scans).

These issues were then taken up during the public debate on 30 November. Spanish Health Minister Elena Salgado Mendez acknowledged the need to discuss patient mobility within the Union but also emphasised the importance of determining how to protect health care services. …

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