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Free movement of patients in Europe

Updated on March 29, 2016

According to a ruling that was made by the European Court of Justice, patients have the right to receive medical care in other countries of the European Union. Therefore, patients who travel to any of the other EU country for medical care will benefit from the equal treatment as the citizens of that country. In a case where they are entitled to healthcare services at home, the patient (s) will be reimbursed by their home country, and the reimbursement will be up to the cost of the treatment at home. However, some of the cases will require them to get authorization before travelling for such treatments. A good instance of this is where the treatment will call for an overnight stay at the institution.

Benefits for EU patients

This will have a number of benefits to EU patients. Firstly, patients will have an easier time accessing information on the healthcare services in the other EU countries. This way, their options for treatment is increased. On the other hand, national health authorities can easily work closely and exchange information on safety and quality standards in the healthcare industry.

Free movement of pattients in Europe

For the citizens who will require care while in another country, they will also benefit from the existing regulations as well as the European health insurance card. As for planned care, under regulation, patients may apply for authorization, which can not be refused if the patient cannot be treated in his or her home country within a time limit which can be justified medically. It is however important to remember that these regulations do not cover all healthcare providers.

Planned healthcare contact points

Every EU country has at least one National Contact Point (some also have regional or local contact points).

National Contact Points

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With regard to hospital care, a major achievement of this directive is that patients will have the opportunity to choose a healthcare provider of their choice. However, there are a number of other benefits of the legislation. These include

More choice- the directive in this case covers all the healthcare providers in the European Union,

Less red- tape for the patients

under this directive, to seek a prior authorization should be more of an expectation than a rule,

Information to the patients

here, patients will be provided with all the information they need to come up with an informed choice. For instance, they will be well informed about the safety and quality of healthcare through the set National Contact Points in all the member states.

Procedural guarantees

the patient will be entitled to decisions that are properly reasoned. Moreover, they can appeal once they feel that their rights have not been respected.

Authorization can only be refused if the treatment in question or the healthcare provider could present a risk for the patient. On the other hand, it may also be refused if the healthcare needed can be provided at home within a time limit that can be justified medically. However, the patient still has the right to request that the administrative decision be reviewed with regards to cross- boarder healthcare for individual cases.


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