PRESS RELEASE - Spain: A step backward in the right to health care for all
Keywords: Health Care
Brussels, 31 August 2012
On 20 April 2012, the Spanish government adopted the Royal Decree Act 16/2012 amending the Foreigners Act, which would deny access to essential and preventive health care services for undocumented migrants. This new law, which takes effect on 1 September 2012, will leave only emergency care, maternity and child care accessible free of charge.
Following criticisms by civil society, regional governments and medical professionals, the Minister of Health, Ms. Ana Mato, decided that primary health care services will be available to undocumented migrants on condition that they adhere to a system of financial contribution similar to private insurance amounting to a monthly fee of EUR 59.20 for those under 65 years of age and up to EUR 155.40 for those over that age. Such fees are unaffordable for many irregular migrants.
Initially, the government had justified the adoption of the Royal Decree Act because of the need to reduce public spending in the midst of a severe economic crisis. However, the Minister of Health recently changed position and stated that the new law is not motivated by economic reasons but is about applying European regulations and the conclusions of the Court of Auditors by ensuring “the principle of reciprocity” when Spaniards travel abroad and “to curb health tourism”
The implementation of the Royal Decree will have serious implications, violating Spain’s European and international human rights obligations. It is foreseen that public health policy will be undermined by an increase in government expenditure, as emergency care is more expensive than preventive health care.
The provision of health care is left to the autonomous regions. Catalonia, Andalucía, Asturias, Canaries and the Basque country have announced they will not apply the law. Other regions have announced they will try to find ways to continue to provide care to undocumented migrants.
Through joint initiatives, coalitions of NGOs have opposed the amendment, stating the additional burden on civil society organizations. Some organizations have also stated that the Royal Decree will further exclude undocumented migrants from society and encourage a culture of discrimination and exclusion by reinforcing socio-economic inequalities.
Medical professionals have voiced their objections, stating that the new law will violate their professional code of conduct, as they have taken oaths to provide medical assistance to those who need it.
Deploring the situation, Michele LeVoy, PICUM Director, stated that “especially in time of crisis, the protection and defence of human rights means protecting and upholding the fundamental values on which European society is founded. A regression of fundamental rights can never be justified”.
On the day before this big step backward in the right to health care for all, we want to reaffirm our strong condemnation of this policy change and our support to the Spanish NGOs and health care professionals who are opposing it.
PICUM calls for health care to be once again accessible to all without discrimination and regardless of one’s immigration status. The right to health is universal and fundamental as upheld by European and international human rights laws and must be preserved to ensure the well-being of all those residing in Europe, with or without regular residence status.
To reinforce its position, PICUM has also signed a press release published by eleven Spanish NGOs. You can read it here (only available in Spanish)
For more information, please contact: Nicola Flamigni, Communications Officer
Tel: +32 2 210 17 80, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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