Access to healthcare in Europe is currently provided free, or at reduced cost, because of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) System. This is vital for the 29,000 people in the UK with kidney disease who are on dialysis three times per week. Dialysis keeps people with kidney disease alive and patients cannot simply miss sessions or take a break; they will deteriorate very rapidly if they miss one or more sessions and within a matter of just a few days, they are likely to die.
The EHIC system has been essential in enabling people who are on dialysis to travel within Europe and continue treatment, as it means that dialysis units will be reimbursed for dialysis sessions provided to non-residents. However, since the European Referendum, we have been receiving calls and messages from dialysis patients expressing strong concern. We believe that it is important that negotiators understand the particularly vital significance of the EHIC system to people on dialysis. If this system were to be lost and not replaced by a similar system, the vast majority of people on dialysis would not be able to travel to or within Europe, at all.
Fiona Loud, Policy Director at Kidney Care UK, said “We believe that every kidney patient has the right to live their life to the full and when the time comes to leave the European Union it is vital that they should still be able to travel within Europe. If there is any compromise on the EHIC system then this will effectively mean almost 30,000 people will not be able to travel for business, or take much-needed and well deserved holidays or respite breaks. This is simply not fair and cannot be allowed to happen.”
If there is any compromise on the EHIC system then this will effectively mean almost 30,000 people will not be able to travel for business, or take much-needed and well deserved holidays or respite breaks.Fiona Loud Kidney Care UK Policy Director
We are are calling on patients and carers, professional bodies and elected representatives in Westminster and in the devolved nations actively to support point 49 in the Government position paper ‘Safeguarding the position of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in the EU’ to ensure that people on dialysis can continue to travel in Europe after the UK has left the European Union:
49) During negotiations, the UK will seek to protect the healthcare arrangements currently set out in EU Regulations and domestic UK law for UK nationals and EU citizens who benefit from these arrangements before the specified date. We will also seek to protect the right of UK nationals and EU citizens to obtain and benefit from the European Health Insurance Card scheme. This will ensure that EU citizens are still eligible for NHS funded healthcare in the UK and vice versa for UK nationals in the EU.Private travel insurance does not provide a viable alternative to the EHIC system for dialysis patients. Many travel insurance policies do not cover dialysis. Of those that do, many have premiums that will be at least as high as the cost of paying privately for dialysis sessions which is out of reach of most people on dialysis.
You can access the government policy paper here
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