“The new EU Directive on patients’ rights will bring a number of benefits to patients that only use healthcare services in other member states. The freedom of choice and solidarity between member states are granted in such a way that patients’ rights will become stronger”, said Minister of State for EU Affairs, Eniko Gyori, in the European Parliament’s legislative debate.
On 19 January, the European Parliament passed the EU Directive on patients’ rights, which can be subsequently ratified by the Council during the Hungarian Presidency’s term.
The European Parliament (EP) discussed the draft directive on infra-Community and “cross-border” health care on 18 January. The directive relates to the rights of patients who use healthcare services in other member states and not in their native countries.
In the debate, member states’ position was represented by Minister of State for EU Affairs, Eniko Gyori, on behalf of Hungary, now holding the Council’s Presidency.
Ms Gyori stressed that the Council, in cooperation with the EP, has taken a big step in a matter that directly affects and eases EU citizens’ lives. “The Hungarian Presidency is committed to the earliest possible adoption of the directive by the Council”, she added.
Free choice and solidarity
According to the minister of state, it was the right decision to approach the proposal from the perspective of patients’ rights rather than services. “We have reached our goal: we managed to reinforce the freedom of choice in addition to the principle of solidarity”, Ms Gyori said and added “we have come to an agreement that will offer many advantages to EU patients and it is another major step in securing EU patients” rights.
“I am convinced that the adopted text will set a proper balance between patients rights to cross-border healthcare and member states” obligation to organise and provide healthcare services and medical attendance’, the Minister of State said.
Stronger patients’ rights
The Minister of State emphasised that the main goal has been reached: to incorporate in a directive the Court of Justice’s practices in the free movement of healthcare goods and services. According to Ms Gyori, the future national contact points in member states and their mutual assistance and cooperation will make patients’ rights stronger and contribute to their awareness.
Ms Gyori thanked the Council’s previous presidencies, and the EP’s members for their work, which made it possible to reach a compromise over a directive which has been subject to debate for 2.5 years now; and to adopt the directive during the term of the Hungarian Presidency.
Free movement of patients
Now awaiting the Council’s adoption, the definitive version contains the principle that patients should be eligible for the same amount of reimbursement in the country providing the health service as they would receive in their native countries. This means the practical implementation of the “free movement of patients”, which requires coordination between the 27 health and social security systems of the 27 member states. The directive will create a framework for such cooperation between member states. The detailed rules relates to the settlement of reimbursements between member states and ensure that patients are given accurate information about the level of health services that are available in the individual countries.