Brussels warns Spain over tourist healthcare

Brussels warns Spain over tourist healthcare
EU citizens on holiday in Spain and carrying a Eureopan Health Insurance Card (above) are entitled to the same standard of care as Spanish citizens. Photo: UK National Health Service
The European Commission is taking action against Spain for not accepting the European healthcare (EHIC)cards of people seeking medical treatment at public hospitals in the country's tourist zones.

The Commission has launched the procedure against Spain after some hospitals in the country for making people pay for treatments that would be free to Spaniards.

Brussels have made the move in the wake of an increasing number of complaints about the Spain's public hospitals refusing to treat people carrying an EHIC card.

Instead, some hospitals have been demanding that patients provide details of their travel insurance and a credit card.

In a statement, the Commission said it was concerned that Spain wasn't meeting its commitments under European legislation.

"Medical assistance is usually free in Spain and the European healthcare card gives people the right to to be treated under the same conditions as Spanish nationals," said the Commission in its statement.

The Commission also said that the far higher costs of private treatment were being picked up by insurance companies, or directly billed to patients

According to the Commission, the insurance sector has also stressed that most travel insurance policies do not cover private healthcare for people overseas. 

The European Commission initially took up this issue with Spanish authorities in 2010. 

Spain said it was taking measure to fight the problem but the Commission says it has continued to receive complaints.

"Both the Foreign Office and UK Department of Health are aware of issues faced by British holidaymakers in Spain when attempting to use their EHIC cards," Simon Montague, Director of Communications for the British Embassy Madrid told The Local on Monday.
“Visitors to Spain are encouraged to report any incidents involving EHICs to the Department of Health representatives based at the British Consulates in Alicante and Madrid," Montague said in an email.
"The Department of Health submits an annual report to the EU Commission reporting EHIC use and any misuse, and this includes any examples highlighted by the British public. Case studies will also be taken up with the central government in Spain."

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