Planned treatment abroad: Know before you go
For an overview of all available types of coverage for cross-border healthcare, please see the following overview table. For non-planned (emergency or unpostponable) healthcare abroad, please see EHIC. If you are a cross-border worker, a member of the immediate family of a cross-border worker or if you are a pensioner, please see S1 Procedure.
Preparing for treatment abroad is, understandably, accompanied by a variety of questions, concerns and anxieties. The first step towards confidently embarking on the journey toward receiving your treatment of choice abroad is thoroughly informing yourself. Below, you will find an introduction to the topic based on the recommendations of the European Parliament and including links to further resources and in-debt information on different aspects of cross-border healthcare. All of the following information concerns only cases of treatment within the borders of the European Economic Area (EEA). Please be advised that exceptions of the general rules outlined below may apply.
When deciding whether to seek planned treatment beyond the borders of your country, you will need to research your treatment options and discuss your planned treatment with your doctor before committing to anything. You have the right to be informed about the treatment options open to you, how other EU countries ensure quality and safety in healthcare, and whether a particular provider is legally entitled to offer services. Every member state of the European Union is required to have a National Contact Point providing information and guidance regarding cross-border healthcare.
It is also recommended that you check any additional details that may concern you, such as a language barrier or availability of suitable accommodation for you and anyone accompanying you.
Check the financial implications with your National Contact Point or insurer to make sure you know how much your treatment will cost you and whether your authorities will pay the costs directly or will reimburse you for some or all of the costs. Check any requirements for pre-treatment authorisation. Remember that some costs (travel, accommodation, repatriation, etc.) may not be covered.
Your home country is responsible for the financial aspects of your cross-border healthcare in the EEA. It must also provide appropriate medical support before and after you go. Your country will have set up one or more National Contact Points where you can receive more details on your rights, including which healthcare services you are entitled to. These contact points can also tell you if you need to apply for authorization before receiving treatment, and how to appeal if you think your rights have not been respected.
You have the right to receive medical treatment in another EU member state and the right to have your home country cover some or all of the costs. If you are entitled to a particular treatment in your home country, then you have a right to be reimbursed when you receive it in another EEA country. Those rights are regulated by Directive 2011/24/EU on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare Directive 2011/24/EU and Regulations (EC) No 883/2004 and 987/2009 S2 Procedure.
Your level of reimbursement will be up to the costs of that treatment in your home country. You may choose whichever healthcare provider you wish, whether public or private. For some treatments (certain in-patient or highly specialised services) you may be required to get authorisation from your own health system before receiving the treatment abroad.
If you are facing a medically unjustifiable waiting time for treatment at home then authorisation must be granted. In this case, you may even be entitled to a higher level of coverage for your healthcare costs, as the Directive states (Art. 31) that if a patient is eligible for coverage under the more beneficial rules of the Regulations (EC) No 883/2004 and 987/2009, then it is to be granted to them. Thus, you would automatically be redirected to S2 Procedure.
Before traveling to your healthcare provider of choice abroad, check their details, especially whether you will need a referral from a general practitioner to access (or to be reimbursed for) specialist care. Make sure you have a copy of your medical records, information on any medicines you are taking, and any relevant test results translated in the official language of the country of treatment. Your home health system must provide you with a copy of your medical records to take abroad with you.
If you are to receive medical treatment in another EU country, you have the same rights as a citizen of that country, and your treatment will be subject to the same rules and standards. The country where you are to receive treatment will also have set up one or more National Contact Points to provide information on the quality and safety systems of that country, and on how healthcare providers are supervised and regulated. These contact points can confirm that the healthcare provider you have chosen has a right to provide that particular service. They can also explain the rights of patients in the country of treatment.
Even if your health insurer authorises a treatment abroad, the healthcare provider of your choice is not immediately required to accept you as its patient. Nevertheless, they would have to justify any refusals. You are not entitled to any preferential treatment in comparison to local patients and you will have to comply with local waiting times.
The healthcare provider you have chosen must tell you about the different treatment options available to you. They must tell you about the quality and safety of the healthcare they provide (including their authorisation or registration status, and liability insurance arrangements). They must provide you with clear information on prices, so you know in advance what the associated costs will be. Finally, they will provide you with a copy of your treatment record to take back to your home system.
To make sure you get the medical follow-up you need, arrange to get a copy of your record from your healthcare provider and translate it in the official language of your home country. Once you have received your treatment, your home country must provide the same follow-up care it would have provided if you had been treated at home.
If you get a prescription, make sure it is suitable for cross-border use (EU law prescribes certain minimum content to make sure that prescriptions can be recognised in every country). Arrange appropriate medical follow-up with your home system (in advance if necessary).
EU law requires health insurers, health authorities and healthcare providers to help you make use of all aforementioned rights in practice.
You can find more information on this subject and also on emergency or unplanned healthcare at www.europa.eu/youreurope.