20 December 2007
The good news appears to be some progress in raising the possibility of a European health system, the bad news is that apparently it is going to take a lot longer than patients in particular would like. Which brings us to the ugly truth that many member states are fiercely resisting progress on this front and the Commission is now delaying draft plans.
The EU is certainly big enough and mature enough to work toward EU standards of care, comparative performance information and consistent statistical reporting, all of which would do wonders to improve the overall quality of care European receive from their health systems.
But what do the member states have to fear? Some offer their citizens a patchwork of poorly integrated services. Others punish their citizens with waiting, waiting and more waiting. And others are blanketed in bureaucratic processes that serve only to increase costs, delay treatment, and keep people in positions of dubious authority. There is much we don’t know, such as whether there is in fact so much demand for cross-border healthcare that it will destabilise the ability of member states to control their budgets — this is highly unlikely in the near term anyway, and in the longer term there are far more important imponderables driving healthcare costs than a few patients having their operations done somewhere else.
There are good and compelling reasons why the EU needs to have a framework to enable cross-border healthcare.