The European Commission is launching legal action against Spain over the refusal of some hospitals to recognise the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Hospital care is free in Spain in general and the EHIC entitles its holder to be treated the same way as a Spanish citizen.
However, some Spanish hospitals have been ‘erroneously’ telling tourists that the health card is invalid if they have travel insurance, according to complaints received in Brussels. Some tourists have been asked for credit cards to pay for treatment and told to reclaim it later from their insurance. In other cases, patients who believed they were being treated based on their health card later discovered that the bill was being sent to your insurance company.
The EU executive believes that with this action, hospitals are denying to European health card holders access to public health in the same conditions as Spanish and only offering private treatment. The high cost of this treatment is billed to insurance companies or, increasingly, to the patients themselves.
The Commission, which checks compliance with EU law, has requested information on the issue from the Spanish government, the first stage of an infringement procedure which could eventually result in a fine.
The European Commission has stated that they are not accusing the cash-strapped Spanish hospitals of trying to make money.