After failing to reach political agreement on a plan for patients to access cross-border healthcare late 2009, the Spanish Presidency earlier this year drafted plans to reach a compromise amongst EU health ministers.
On 8 June 2010 the Council in charge of Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs met in Luxembourg and agreed on the compromise proposal of the Spanish Presidency on the draft directive of the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare.
In September, the Council adopted the first-reading position on the draft directive of the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare.
From these two significant milestones, the Directive began taking shape. The European Parliament’s public health committee met in October, with 227 amendments to the plan, with three major focal points being:
- Patients do not require prior authorization to seek medical care in another country, however if the care requires overnight hospital stays or specialized care, their national system may require prior authorization.
- Member states could only refuse authorization in certain stated circumstances.
- Patients with rare diseases would be covered under the directive.
In December 2010, the Parliament, Council and Commission met to discuss certain issues that still pose problems between the three parties, particularly in regards to the technology required for the successful implementation of the Directive, such as the interoperability of eHealth initiatives and ‘appropriate’ consultations for health technology assessment.
The European Parliament voted on the 19th January 2011 to accept the Cross-border Health Care Directive. After much discussion and negotiation, agreement has been reached on the proposal which is expected to be formally adopted in February, and effective in 2013.
The most obvious beneficiaries will be patients seeking advanced treatments, those living along borders where the nearest hospital is across the line, or those who work in one country but want to get treatment near family members in another country.