Wednesday, 29 May 2013
EU Health Care Directive
I welcome the Minister of State to the House. The EU directive on cross-border health care gives citizens of member states the right to travel to another member state if suitable health care is not available or is unduly delayed in their own member state. That directive was signed off as far back as February 2011 and the Government has 30 months in which to put it in place. The treatment abroad fund currently deals with that area. My concern is that the time period is running out and there is a need to set up the structures for dealing with the directive. I ask for clarification on the Department's current position.
The EU directive on the application of patients' rights in cross-border health care provides clarity about the rights of patients who seek health care in another member state and supplements the rights that patients already have at EU level through the legislation on the co-ordination of social security schemes, Regulation 883/04. The purpose of the directive is to establish a clear legal framework to facilitate cross-border health care with a focus on patient rights; information for patients on entitlements; patient choice. The directive aims to facilitate access to safe and high-quality cross-border health care; to promote co-operation on health care between member states, in full respect of national competencies in organising and delivering health care; to facilitate efficient transfer of patient information between member states; to establish a mechanism to facilitate reimbursement of the cost of treatment abroad; to introduce a system of prior authorisation for certain categories of treatment. It is not envisaged that the directive would establish any new entitlements or rights to treatment. In essence the directive provides rules for the reimbursement to patients of the cost of receiving treatment abroad, where the patient would be entitled to such treatment in their home member state or the member state of affiliation. However, in this regard, it should be emphasised that the vast majority of EU patients receive health care in their own country and prefer to do so. Thus, the directive seeks to ensure a clear and transparent framework for the provision of cross-border health care within the EU. for those occasions where the care patients seek is provided in another member state than in their home country. It is also worth noting that the Commission recognises that member states are responsible for the organisation and delivery of health services and medical care, in particular for determining which rules will apply to the reimbursement of patients and to the provision of health care.
The Government welcomes the directive as it provides a coherent and uniform set of rules for patients throughout the EU and it will initiate a new phase of co-operation between 27 national health systems. It is also hoped that the directive may contribute towards reducing inequalities in access to care by helping patients to choose their health care-provider across the EU. Patients will, under the directive, have greater and clearer access to information on the quality and safety of the care they will receive in whichever member state they decide to have their treatment. All of the above issues are complex and require careful consideration before proposals to transpose the directive are finalised. This is the issue raised in Senator Burke's matter. My Department continues its work on the required legislative framework to facilitate the assimilation of the directive into domestic legislation. Details of legislative changes required will be published closer to the date for transposition of the directive. The Senator made reference to the time limit in that regard. The Government intends to keep to that time limit.
I am a little concerned. My understanding is that the time will expire by the end of August 2013. This leaves quite a limited period of time in which to transpose the directive. I am concerned with regard to entitlements.