At last, healthcare  free for everyone, says Government

FREE and universal State healthcare for everyone in Spain has been restored, officially, after years of undocumented migrants being denied everything but emergency treatment.

Health Minister Carmen Montón told Parliament: “For the previous right-wing, PP-led Government, axing rights was urgent; for the current PSOE, left-wing socialist Government, restoring rights is urgent.”

Back in 2012, the PP withdrew SIP, or healthcare system registration cards, from all non-EU citizens without a valid residence permit.

Only in response to pressure from the opposition did MPs agree to allow them free emergency treatment, all medical cover for the under-18s, and pregnancy, labour and post-partum care (first six weeks after childbirth).

In the main, this affected the extremely poor, from third-world countries, some of whom had been living in Spain for years. But they had been unable to find sustainable, non-cash work to enable them to apply for residence.

Given their origin, it meant that infectious and tropical diseases could, potentially, go untreated, putting the rest of the population at risk.

And, as these people were in the most precarious position, unable to pay for care, what might have begun as a minor, treatable condition, could have ended up becoming an emergency, which demanded treatment, or even death.

The ban also affected non-EU nationals, whose residence had expired and who were facing problems renewing it, largely through problems finding work. or having to work cash-in-hand to survive.

One of the most high-profile cases was that of 29-year-old Hanane, from Castellón, whose breast cancer had metastasised into her bones. But she was unable to get chemotherapy or morphine patches from her nearest hospital.

After 10 years in Spain, her and her husband’s residence had expired, and, as their only income was from cash-in-hand sales at markets around the country, or seasonal fruit-picking, they were unable to renew it.

Eventually, however, doctors at surgeries and hospitals, in practically every region in Spain, defied the Government and carried on treating those who were not eligible, even though forced to do so out of hours on occasion.

By the time the PSOE came to power in June, only Murcia and Asturias were not treating undocumented migrants.

Perhaps, just as crucially, difficulties faced by foreigners, early-retirees or working-age residents “not in the system”, and even EU citizens, will now be accepted.

Spain has always allowed universal and free healthcare for anyone legally resident in Spain under Article 43 of the Constitution, signed in December 1978.

But confusion and misinformation has long abounded, with non-working expats under State-pension age believing, or even being told, “officially”, that they needed private health insurance to gain treatment.

However, some confusion still exists, since non-EU citizens must show proof of health insurance to be able to apply for residence, even though they will be covered by the State once they are legally resident. But this puzzle is likely to be clarified, gradually.

There also remains some confusion about whether Carmen Montón even intends to extend free healthcare to tourists.

EU citizens carrying an EHIC card can obtain treatment for “emergency” care, defined as anything that cannot wait until they return home, and not necessarily a life-or-death situation.

Yet Foreign Offices outside Spain still urge tourists to take out insurance to cover any shortfall.

Non-EU citizens, visiting for holidays or more extended periods, but not long enough to be considered “resident”, should have travel insurance.

Until the situation becomes clearer, tourists in Spain should still take out the usual insurance, to avoid unexpected healthcare bills.

At present, based on the Health Minister’s announcement, rights to healthcare will be based upon residence rather than people being “insured”, or “beneficiaries”.

The PP criticised the move, claiming it could open the door to “rich Americans becoming health tourists” in Spain if they are insured for the treatment they needed in the US.


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Posted by on Sep 14 2018. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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