First Doctors, Then Patients?
With the enlargement of the European Union, immigration of doctors and other health care workers is under increased attention.
But there has been less focus on the rights and opportunities of patients to receive medical care in other member states. The rights of health care workers are clearly defined, but the situation is more complicated in the case of patients. In this article we get an overview of how the right of people to receive medical care in the EU is regulated, significant and recent European Union cases that have increased the right of patients to move, and we describe legal acts in Estonia in the question and experience to this date.
Attempts to regulate the rights of groups or people to get medical attention in other European Union member states under clearly defined and delineated conditions goes back to 1958. The rights became clearer with regulation 1408/71, which was conditioned by the need to support the free movement of employees between member states and ensure continuity of insurance coverage when working in another country. Today this simple regulation has overstepped its original intent of expanding rights and opportunities of movement from one member states to another. European Court cases have given a significant tone to European health and social policy.
Even though few who have received medical treatment outside Estonia, a study conducted in September 2004 shows that many people are ready to consider health care opportunities abroad, and that the readiness is directly linked to people’s negative views of the availability and quality of physician’s care. Thus it can be predicted that pressure for expanding the availability of medical care abroad will increase. That would be a monetary drain on the Estonian health care system and make the health care insurance budget tighter, decreasing the availability of medical care here and deepening dissatisfaction with the local health care system. It will also force us to look more closely at our country’s health care expenditures, investment opportunities of health care institutions and measures, which would help restore and ensure trust in our health care system.