Union pangs

  • 29/11/2005

The European system of reciprocal health and social welfare cover between countries is turning out to be a serious financial drain on Spain's economy. The country has protested against the rising cost of providing healthcare to 225,000 Britons, who have settled there. Most of the beneficiaries are pensioners from the uk, who've retired in Spain, as it affords quality health facilities and pleasant weather. Spain claims that only 49,436 Britons have completed the E-121 form necessary for availing health facilities under reciprocal terms. In case of such clients, governments within the EU reclaim a share of the healthcare costs from the patient's home countries. The remaining 175,000 people avail healthcare services budgeted solely by Spain.

Spanish authorities face soaring bills for drugs, nursing and homecare for expatriates. Acute hospital care costs Spain an extra US $70 million a year. The Spanish taxpayer has to bear most of this. Lodging a strong protest, Elena Salgado, Spanish health minister, has opened talks in Brussels on obtaining due reimbursement from the UK. "We have opened the door to everybody and it needs to be regulated,' said Cristina Gutierrez-Cortines, member of parliament (MP) from Murcia, a favoured destination for Britons.

One million UK citizens own property in Spain, says a healthcare study. The Spanish say many assume the healthcare system in Spain for the old is similar to that in other European countries but fail to realise that families help look after the elderly in Spain, supplementing professional care, thereby lowering the cost.

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