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Spain refutes scale of health card problems for Britons

Spain's director of general services and pharmacy has said that hospitals in the country always ask people whether they want public or private care.

Agustín Rivero was responding to complaints that a number of UK holidaymakers were refused care in Spain, despite showing an European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

They have sent us four very specific cases. Four cases. We're talking about 500,000 [foreign citizens receiving health care].

Even if it were only one case, logically it would have to receive the same treatment as a Spaniard, and we have talked to health services and hospitals about those four cases.

What the insurance companies have told the UK government does not coincide with what our hospitals report. In those four cases, the patients themselves signed their consent requesting private care.

– Agustín Rivero, Spain's Director General of Services and Pharmacy

Mr Rivero said 50 million people visit Spain every year, adding: "I'd like to know if other European countries have the same percentage of this problem as we do."

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What is the European Health Insurance Card?

  • The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) replaced the E111 form in 2006
  • The EHIC lets you get state healthcare at a reduced cost or sometimes for free
  • The card covers treatment of pre-existing conditions and routine maternity care
  • It is valid in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries

For further information about the EHIC, visit the NHS website

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EU probes Spain over hospitals' rejection of health card

The European Commission has requested information from Spain about complaints Spanish hospitals are refusing to recognise the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

The European Commission is investigating reports Spanish hospitals are refusing the EHIC. Credit: NHS

The Commission says it is concerned Spain might be failing to fulfil its obligations under EU law to provide emergency healthcare to temporary visitors from other member states on the same terms and conditions as are available to Spanish nationals.

The request for information follows an increasing number of complaints that hospitals, in mainly tourist areas of Spain, are refusing to treat citizens on the basis of their European Health Insurance Card and instead request a travel insurance policy and credit card details.

Labour: Cameron 'ill-equipped' to push EU spending reforms

Prime Minister David Cameron is accused of alienating European partners
Prime Minister David Cameron is accused of alienating European partners Credit: Press Association

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander have hit out at David Cameron's posturing against the EU, accusing him of alienating European partners and minimising the UK's influence.

In an article in The Times they said he is "ill-equipped" to push through vital spending reforms:

"Sadly for both Britain and Europe, Mr Cameron looks ill-equipped to fulfil that role. A failure to deliver the necessary restraint and reforms will be a missed opportunity for Europe, a setback for Britain and a personal failure for the Prime Minister."

Labour calls for EU to make spending reforms

In a joint article written in The Times Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander have called for the European Union to spend less money, and to reallocate how it spends money.

They supported plans to overhaul the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as they called the current subsidies "a waste" of money that does not create jobs. They said:

Far too much money still goes on agricultural subsidies, instead of on policies to promote growth, cohesion and development or to support the EU’s vital role in international affairs

So further reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) must not just be discussed but implemented.

The CAP amounts to about £45 billion and the UK makes a net contribution of about £1 billion per year. Although the butter mountains of the past are long gone, the need for reform is no less urgent. The CAP is an obstacle to international trade liberalisation, creates too few jobs and introduces distortions so there is not a level playing field. The EU cannot afford this waste.

Labour calls for cut in European Union budget

Ed Balls
Ed Balls and Douglas Alexander write in The Times this morning that Europe must spend less Credit: Press Association

Labour have called for the Government's funding of the European Union to be cut. In an article in The Times Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Douglas Alexander said Europe must "spend less and spend differently."

"The crisis in the eurozone and a chronic lack of growth across the Continent mean that EU resources are stretched and priorities must be revised. The challenge for the EU, as for national governments, is to cut spending in a way that is both fair and supports rather than stifles jobs and growth."

"The priority for the new seven-year budget must be to promote growth and jobs across Europe. And that is why Labour will argue against the proposed increase in EU spending and instead support a real-terms cut in the budget."

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