A Healthy FutureBy Ann Hobbs



Health care is on the agenda at the European Union in Brussels and causing more than a mild headache for many of the member state who fear a deluge of tourists with one thing on their mind;  better and faster health care.  Member states felt the strain on the host country could be unattainable, putting their own citizens at risk.  EU ministers don’t agree.  Markos Kyprianos the EU health commissioner said: “The health care patients need is sometimes best provided in another EU country.” 
So how do we fair here in Spain?  If you are a resident and part of the system then in theory you should be able to seek health care in any other of the EU states.  The European Court of Justice recently found in favour of a woman from Bedford who sought reimbursement from the NHS for the cost of hip surgery undertaken in France when the NHS refused to grant her permission to go but must stay on the NHS waiting list. 
Mr Kyprianos does concede that this ECJ ruling has left a question mark on how national health services throughout the union are going to deal with the consequences, but he does confirm that in due course the commission will provide clarification.
With their head forever in the sand the response by the UK Department of Health was that: Last year only 230 UK citizens travelled abroad specifically for treatment.”  One begs to suggest to the Department of Health that once the bill is ratified and publicised then the likelihood is; numbers will rise dramatically.
Residents who have already succeed in obtaining their health card from the Instituto Nacional de Seguridad Social and use the local health centre may not also be aware that covers the cost of about three quarters of and treatment and the balance should be paid by the patient.  This last quarter can be covered by an additional ‘top-up’ insurance scheme.
The Spanish health care system also suffers from long waiting lists for ‘non emergency treatment; however unlike the UK over half the populous subscribe to private health insurance as well as the standard ‘top-up’ cover.
If you are on a fixed income then the cost of private health insurance may seem unnecessary if you are in good health.  However, it is worth investigation even for the ‘top-up’ insurance, especially if you feel that you need the extra peace of mind. 
You may want to plumb for something like dental insurance.  This can be inexpensive.  An average cost being around 50 euros a year, though if you are fortunate to have a Courte Ingles store card they offer dental cover for around 35 euros per annum.  This could well be a good starting point.  We all need to visit the dentist from time to time and you could find the first treatment you have offsets your annual premium. 
A number of companies offer dental cover so shop around.  Sanitas is one of the big players in Spain and is part of the BUPA group.  They also provide private health insurance. 
If you are thinking about some form of health insurance you must be prepared to spend time getting quotes.  For anyone aged around 60 your benchmark should be around 1000 euros per annum.  ASSA Seguros Sanitarios* start at just under 800 euros and Sanitas start a little cheaper.  Another source of information is the independent advisors PHA Expat at www.phaexpat.com
The main question is do you feel able to cope with any sudden mishap?  Could you cope with the expense of long term treatment?  For sure these problems are the exception rather than the rule but they do happen.  Only a few hospitals throughout Spain provide completely free treatment and the waiting list are long. 
An alternative would be to set aside a sum each month for just this purpose and invest it. You could then take your savings and go to whatever EU country you choose.  It may not support a total crisis but it may provide a stop gap.  In any event you should not copy the UK Department of Health stance of burying your head in the sand.
If you have any queries about this article or any Money Matters queries contact Ann on 661003324, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  If you have personal questions for Ann you may contact her via Big Attitude PR on 661757433, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
* More information available through AJB Consultants telephone 965796357; email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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