The European Commission has admonished Spain for failing to accept European health cards. The Spanish Government, however, insists that it attends to all foreign tourists that have ‘valid’ documentation.’
The EC took this action after receiving a “growing number of complaints.” The complaints, in many cases, came when tourists had to pay for their medical attention out of their own pockets, despite that, individual national-health systems accept users from other nation’s health systems across Europe.
European legislation specifies that foreign visitors should receive the same services as a local resident, which in the case of Spain still means that users do not pay upon receiving medical attention.
In most cases, tourists are denied free treatment because the hospital or medical centres considers that the medical-coverage documents are not valid and are told to either pay in cash or credit card, or advised to charge it to their travel insurance.
Other tourists were treated without comment but later found out when they got home that the treatment had been charged to the travel insurance without their knowledge.
The trouble is that many travel insurances don’t cover ‘private medical treatment,’ so that the policy holder ends up paying for the treatment when the insurance company rejects the bill.
The European Health Card is accepted in a total of 27 EU members, plus Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. The EC recommends that in the case that a tourist’s paperwork is not up to scratch they can request provisional paperwork from their home country that will be faxed or sent by email
The Minister for Public Health, Ana Matos, has firmly responded that “Every hospital and medical centre systematically attends to foreign patients whose paperwork is in order,” i.e., that its validity has not expired. She also said that she “understands” that the complaints have come from the United Kingdom.
Another top official within the public health system, Director General Agustín Rivero, said that the the problem is around 20 cases, of which the EC has only provided details of four, which took place at the Hospital Costa del Sol de Marbella. He said that administrative staff there had assured him in these four cases that the patients signed documents expressed their conformity to opting for a private insurance.