Spain protests over cost of expat health care
7 November 2005, MADRID — Spain has protested about the multi-million-pound cost of providing healthcare for hundreds of thousands of foreign expats who have moved there.
7 November 2005
MADRID — Spain has protested about the multi-million-pound cost of providing healthcare for hundreds of thousands of foreign expats who have moved there.
Spanish authorities face soaring bills for drugs, nursing and home carers for the expatriates. Acute hospital care costs Spain an extra EUR 59 million a year, the Sunday Times reported.
Elena Salgado, the Spanish health minister, has opened talks in Brussels on obtaining a rebate.
Salgado’s spokesman, Roberto Rodriguez, said Europe’s system of reciprocal health and social welfare cover was inadequate to cope with vast numbers of British, German, Dutch and Scandinavian pensioners retiring in Spain.
Many fail to register under the E121 scheme that allows governments within the European Union to reclaim a share of healthcare costs from patients’ home countries.
An estimated 1 million Britons own properties in Spain, according to a study of healthcare by Age Concern.
The Spanish say many assume the system in Spain is similar to the NHS and fail to realise that, in Spain, families help to look after the elderly, supplementing professional care.
"A huge number of them speak little or no Spanish," said Ana Skou, a spokeswoman for Mijas municipality on the Costa del Sol, where just over half the population of 62,000, are native Spaniards.
"Those who come as pensioners are the least likely to integrate. They fall ill and run into problems."
Although 225,000 Britons are registered to vote in municipal elections in Spain, only 49,436, have completed the E121 form.
The Spanish taxpayer is left out of pocket if any Briton who has not filled in the form needs care.
Ignasi Guardans, a Liberal MEP from Barcelona, said: "These people are essentially health tourists. There is a huge cost to Spain because they have not been contributing to our health system."
Britain’s ministry of work and pensions department said: "(We do) everything possible to ensure migrants understand the requirements to register for their healthcare costs to be reimbursed from the UK."
Age Concern has a network of 200-300 volunteers in five Spanish centres to help 12,000 elderly people, of whom one in eight is classed as an "acute" case — suffering from serious mental or physical illness, or destitute.
Many expat pensioners do not realise housing and council tax subsidies and disability costs are not payable outside the UK or their own countries.
In practice, however, few are denied help in Spain, adding to the burden on the Spanish taxpayer.
Subject: Spanish news