New EU regulations could make it easier for those with health insurance to get treatment abroad

Euro MPs have sanctioned healthcare legislation which is aimed at making it easier for EU citizens to get medical treatment in another EU member state.

The directive, which comes into effect in 2013, will enable EU patients to have treatment in another member state, which will be paid for by the health service in their own country. The ruling requires patients to get the approval of a doctor and funding approval from a health authority in their home country before getting treatment abroad. They will then pay for the treatment up-front before claiming the cost back.

However, the changes do not apply to emergency healthcare while on a visit abroad, which is covered by the European Health Insurance Card.

Liz Lynne, a Liberal Democrat MEP, said the decision was “a milestone for cross-border health care in Europe”, but health campaigners claim the move could lead to NHS trusts chasing higher paying ‘health tourists’. She said: “I think we have found the right balance between protecting national health systems and strengthening patients’ rights.”

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