The principle of free movement of persons allows people to access healthcare throughout the European Union (EU). Receiving healthcare in an EU Member State (MS) is easy, reimbursement however may be difficult.

European directive 2011/24/EU includes provisions providing for the introduction of a general framework aimed at clarifying patients’ rights with regard to accessing cross-border healthcare and further guaranteeing the safety, quality and efficiency of such care throughout the EU.

To this effect, patients receiving healthcare in a MS other than the one they reside in, enjoy equal treatment as patients that are residents in that country. In addition, they are equally reimbursed the same proportion as if they had been treated in their own country of residence.

The directive distinguishes between 3 situations:

  • ambulatory care (dental care, visits to a general practitioner (GP)) may be received in each MS without prior authorization of one´s National Health Insurance Fund.
  • urgent care in the context of a temporary stay abroad may be received in each MS without prior authorization of one´s Nation Health Insurance Fund.
  • for care involving a hospital stay of at least one night, specialized care, care involving high costs, or certain cases involving the security and quality of treatment, it may be required to get prior authorization from one´s Nation Health Insurance Fund.

In principle, patients receiving healthcare abroad must pay for underlying treatment costs in full, and may thereupon demand reimbursement from one´s competent national authority. As stated above, costs incurred in this context are reimbursed at the same level which would have been reimbursed if the treatment had taken place in one´s country of residence.

In addition to this, the directive foresees that an information contact point on patients’ rights is established in each MS.

You can consult directive 2011/24/EU, the memo from the European Commission thereto, as well as the leaflet on patients’ rights concerning cross border health care.