Though proposals were expected today on the controversial new plan that would make it easier for patients in Europe to travel to other EU countries to receive healthcare, a European Commission spokesman said this morning the proposals have been put off, citing “agenda reasons.”
The idea behind the plan is that patients should essentially be able to “shop around” Europe for their healthcare, having operations done in countries where the wait time and expertise most suits their needs, and then having their home healthcare system foot the bill. So, for example, a UK resident who needs a surgery but is facing a 4 year wait to do it at an NHS hospital, could travel to France and have the operation done sooner (and maybe better), and then get the NHS to foot the bill.
But the plan has been enormously controversial, and the UK is particularly opposed to it because some fear it will spell the “end of the NHS” because the system would be forced to transition to a more insurance-based continental system.
For this reason the proposals have been hitting consistent delays, being drafted and redrafted, and the proposals today were expected to offer countries like the UK the option to pre-approve such out-of-country treatment and to opt-out. Of course, the proponents of the plan say this would negate the very purpose of it.
Mark Mardell had an interesting package on the BBC last night about a woman who faced a four year wait for gastric bypass surgery in the UK, so she opted to have the operation performed in Belgium where there was no wait for £5,000 (insert joke about the weight difference between continentals and Brits here). He's detailed more about this issue in his Euroblog today.