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Mapping Health Services Access : National and Cross-border Issues

According to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights ‘Everyone has the right of access to preventive health care and the right to benefit from medical treatment under the conditions established by national laws and practices’.

The Health ACCESS project, finalised in 2006, has examined whether any of six hurdles (population covered for health insurance, benefits covered, cost-sharing arrangements, geographical barriers, organizational barriers and utilization of accessible services) make it harder or even impossible to access healthcare within 10 EU countries, and whether cross-border arrangements between actors of different countries can effectively alleviate such problems. European integration has the potential to alleviate some, but not all access barriers.

In total, the project identified 130 cross-border arrangements in the studied countries, between different actors and of different size and duration. In many instances, the actual size in terms of money or patients involved could not be established. Similarly, statistics on overall numbers and expenditure of cross-border patients often do not exist or are not available. Where figures exist, their basis is often either unclear and/or cannot be compared.

The Health ACCESS project partners came to the conclusion that this problem cannot be overcome by further research. Rather, it is up to the policy-makers at the EU level to decide what data they require and then to set up appropriate systems. A harmonized process of data collecting and reporting is long overdue and should urgently be determined and implemented.