EU ultimatum to Spain on pensioner healthcare

20th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

The European Commission wants Spain to change its current rules of denying EU pensioners of access to free medication when they stay temporarily in the country.

BRUSSELS – The European Commission issued a final warning to Spain on Thursday over its failure to offer full healthcare options to pensioners visiting from elsewhere in Europe.

"European legislation guarantees everyone in the EU the same access as residents to necessary healthcare when visiting another EU country," EU Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimir Spidla stressed.

The commission believes that Spain discriminates against EU pensioners by refusing them access to free medication when they stay temporarily in the country.

"Spain is the one of the top tourist destinations in Europe, but the current Spanish rules impose additional red tape on EU pensioners who might need access to medication," the commission said in a statement.

"We're taking action today to make sure holidaymakers from other EU countries enjoy the same rights as residents."

Spanish legislation allows pensioners insured in Spain to get medication for free. But EU pensioners are required to show an additional document issued by their national social security services, in Spanish, to certify that they are in receipt of a state pension.

The Spanish authorities now have two months to respond to the "reasoned opinion" from Brussels which believes Madrid is in breach of its social legislation.

If they fail to do so, or if the response is deemed unsatisfactory, the commission could take Spain to the European Court of Justice.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives access to medical care when the holder falls ill or has an accident during a temporary stay in a participating country.

Over 170 million Europeans now hold an EHIC, which is valid throughout the 27-nation European Union as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

AFP / Expatica

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