16th Jul 2019

EU health bill faces indefinite delay

  • The health bill was controversial among commissioners (Photo: www.freeimages.co.uk)

The European Commission has temporarily shelved a controversial legislative proposal tackling patients' rights to receive medical treatment in another EU member state.

The official reason for withdrawing the bill has been the commission's heavy agenda, with the commission's spokesperson saying on Wednesday (7 February) that the document is currently "under further analysis [and] it will be scheduled at the appropriate time this year".

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He stopped short of setting any definitive date.

Several commission officials have informally acknowledged, however, that the legislative proposal was "not foreseen for the adoption in near future" because it is not supported by all 27 commissioners.

"Many cabinets intervened" against the bill, one official said, citing high costs and the negative impact on national health systems during internal discussions.

In addition, some wanted to avoid opening a highly-sensitive issue during ratification of the EU's Lisbon Treaty.

The blueprint on patients' rights in cross border health-care has now seen a double delay - it was to be unveiled on 19 December and then in early January.

In terms of content, the legislation is expected to set out clear rules on who is responsible for covering the costs and securing quality of medical treatment of Europeans provided in a member state other than their own.

EU health commissioner Markos Kyprianu, in charge of the dossier, said last week (30 February): "the commitment is there for the European Commission to present its proposal."

"I don't think [we] have a choice," Mr Kyprianu stressed, referring to a ruling by the European Court of Justice that prompted the commission to draw up the draft legislation.

The EU's top court ruled that basic internal market rules also apply to health care and that patients may seek health treatment in another EU country and subsequently its reimbursement.

"It's not an initiative of the commission to create any new right," the Cypriot commissioner said, concluding that Brussels only aims at "offering legal certainty".

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