THE European Commission has launched a debate to clarify the rights of European Union citizens who travel to another European member state to receive medical treatment in that state.

At this stage they are not including in the discussion the request from the Spanish Minister of Health, Elena Salgado, for a system of compensation for those countries, such as Spain, who treat a large number of tourists and residents from other European member states. “The necessity to clarify how the rules apply so that member states can plan their health system accordingly, including the financial aspect, was highlighted as one of the key issues in the EU's debate, but there has been no specific mention of a system of compensation”, said the spokesperson for Health, Philip Tod.

A prominent source from the European Union said that the Commission is not expected to include the request in their proposal for health services which will be presented during the first week of 2007, after the results of the public debate which was launched on Tuesday are analysed.

Nevertheless, he said he expected that the compensation system, “will form part of the debate because the Spanish Minister has requested this on various occasions”. Spain is supported in its claim by the southern member states such as Portugal, Italy and Greece, who also suffer the same pressure on their health services due to tourists and residents from northern member states, admitted the EU source.

In accordance with the figures from the Ministry of Health, Spain received 18 million euros for treating foreigners in 2003, a quantity considered by the Spanish Government to be “insufficient”.

Salgado has also demanded, on various occasions, that a portfolio of basic health services be set up, which will be common to all EU countries, which will establish clear rules at EU level to govern the health cover patients are entitled to.

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