The press in Spain in recent months has been dominated with reports of crackdowns on the availability of healthcare for expatriates living in the region with expats who rely on European Health Insurance cards being accused of ‘draining the system’.
Doctors and politicians in Spain have launched an attack on expatriates who seek medical assistance in the region without contributing tax, deeming such individuals to be a drain on resources. The SiMAP union, which represents doctors in Spain, has issued a statement that claims that non-Spanish expatriates from within the EU union account for up to 20% of the total hospital admissions in Spain. It is believed that such individuals benefit from European Health Insurance Cards (Ehic), which are issued on a black market. The end result is that valuable Spanish healthcare resources are utilized treating expatriates who do not contribute financially towards the maintainance of the healthcare system, as they have not registered as resident in Spain and therefore do not contribute taxes.
Many expatriates within the EU region, use Spain as a place to establish a second home, and will switch between living in Spain and living in their home country on a regular basis. Sceptics now argue that such individuals will also move countries according to where they can gain the quickest access to healthcare or where they can jump waiting lists. In the past, many doctors in Spain have not questioned this as there has been no reason to doubt the validity of patient’s illness. However, in recent years the healthcare system within Spain has become increasingly under pressure and there are now moves being made to prevent expatriates from claiming free healthcare. Valencia, one of the latest cities to implement rules governing the provision of medical help to expatriates, recently introduced measures that prevent expatriates below retirement age and not registered as employed from receiving any free help.
The message being given to expatriates living in Spain is to get health insurance or risk being left with no help in the event of an emergency. Expatriates who move to Spain should check their health insurance policies carefully and ensure that they have sufficient coverage for any medical emergencies they may encounter when living in this European country. Those under the age of 65 who do not intent registering as resident or who will not be working in the region will not be permitted access to healthcare. Previously many expatriates relied on their European Health Insurance cards but now these will only allow a very limited access to health services and will be expected to pay for the majority of treatment received.
If, however, you are working in Spain and paying taxes, you will be eligible to access to full medical care and support as part of the National Health system. In addition, those expatriates who live in Spain and are above the retirement age will also be afforded full medical assistance.