What is the Cross-Border Healthcare Initiative?

The Cross-Border Healthcare Initiative was approved by the European Union in late February 2011. Its ultimate goal is to better integrate Europe’s national healthcare systems (and will ideally benefit European expats). Some of the Cross-Border Healthcare Initiative’s key provisions are as follows:

  • Citizens of one EU member state may receive healthcare in another, and charge the cost back to their respective national health systems. Reimbursement may not exceed the cost of the treatment in the individuals’ home countries.
  • EU member states may implement systems of prior authorization to limit the outflows of patients under the Cross-Border Healthcare Initiative.
  • EU countries must create “national contact points” able to provide patients with information about access to medical care and patients’ rights, including information about healthcare providers, treatment quality and accessibility to hospitals for people with disabilities.
  • Improved recognition of prescriptions issued across borders.

According to the European Union’s Public Health Portal, “although the vast majority of patients receive healthcare in their own country, sometimes the care is best provided abroad. This can be the case for example for highly specialised care or in border areas where the nearest appropriate facility is abroad.”

Criticism of the Cross-Border Healthcare Initiative centers largely on the bureaucracy necessary to implement the plan (EU member states technically have 30 months from the end of February to do so, though the official timeline is closer to 18 months). “The rules will turn the UK’s NHS into a bureaucratic nightmare,” said one British politician. “Extra staff will be needed to chase up money owed from countries such as Romania.”

For more on the Cross-Border Healthcare Initiative, visit the website of the Europe for patients campaign.