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Tuesday January 26, 2010

Is Spain right to cut off health care scroungers?


Think about it. You need a hip replacement but the NHS is overloaded, advising that it could be many months before you can ever hope of admission. Then you learn about healthcare in sunny Spain with its sumptuous public hospitals that offer excellent patient care and treatments virtually on the spot. What do you do, wait in the NHS queue or hop on an easyJet flight to the Costa del Sol for immediate and free treatment? Let’s face it, it’s a no brainer and that is why so many Britons and other non Spanish EU nationals are heading in droves to hospitals in the sun.

The irony of course is that the NHS is battling to keep up with the flow of non-British nationals that arrive by the truckload in the UK expressly to obtain free healthcare. And let’s not even get started on failed asylum seekers who receive automatic NHS health care. It is estimated that “health tourism”:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/5872624/Failed-asylum-seekers-to-get-free-NHS-care.html costs the NHS about £200 million annually and shows no signs of abating. (). Unlike other EEA countries, the UK also offers free health care willy nilly to anyone with domicile status in the country, be they contributing to the economy or not. Given the huge burden this has placed on the NHS it’s hardly surprising that so many Britons are resorting to gaining hospital admissions in Spain or elsewhere.

The SiMAP union which represents public health care doctors in Spain insists that the country cannot carry on supporting the health care of so many expat freeloaders pitching up on the doorsteps of Spanish hospitals. These are either opportunists purporting to be on holiday or expat non-Spanish residents both of which erroneously use the ‘holiday’ European Health Insurance Card to gain free treatment. According the the SiMap union, nearly 20 percent of local hospital treatments in Alicante are administered to non Spanish nationals of which Britons are the largest group. Its case is backed up by outspoken Spanish politician, Juan Carlos Rodriguez Ibarra, who wrote in “El Pais”:http://www.elpais.com/articulo/opinion/Turismo/gorron/elpepiopi/20091001elpepiopi_4/Tes that many foreigners were treated as emergency cases in the Costa del Sol hospital in Marbella and that the abuse of the Spanish health system by expats could lead to xenophobia.

It’s obvious that the straw has broken the camel’s back but what is the answer? Simples! as Aleksandra of Compare the Meerkat might shriek. Is it not time for the UK to get in line with the rest of Europe, expecting economic contributions from non British nationals in return for free NHS healthcare? If that were to happen, there’s a strong possibility that British citizens might find an inch of space on the operating table back home, persuading them to turn their backs forever on the land of scalpel, sand and sangria.





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  1. please could you help my husband and I want to relocate to Spain he is 63 not 65 till November 2017 I am 53 but we need to get a grip on health care it’s all so confusing do we have to have private insurance is it cheaper for us to get insurance once we get there or can we pay into the Spanish health system I am so confused

    * by Wendy davies | Mar 25, 04:02 pm