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Recortes de Prensa

Valencian Health Authority meets with PUMA 22

Round Town News, 26 | 11 | 2009 - Noticia

As reported in last week’s Round Town News, members of the PUMA 22 pressure group met with representatives of the Valencian Health Authority in a meeting that was organised after the intervention of the Department of Works and Pension in Alicante

The meeting was seen by the authorities as a last ditch attempt to explain their point of view to the pressure group which has been set up to fight the introduction of charges for healthcare for early retirees. Despite the Valencian authorities offering what the DWP has called ‘unprecedented proposals aimed at placating the situation’, following the meeting, PUMA 22 campaigners have vowed to fight on for the reinstatement of free health care and have stated their intention to continue with their plans to confront consular officials at a protest on December 10th.

Corry Granger, PUMA 22’s Spokesperson told RTN: “The PUMA 22 group were told that the free health care which they have been receiving and which has recently been withdrawn should never have been in place and that it had been ‘an error’. Group members laid down their fears to officials at the meeting, but they appear to have fallen on deaf ears.”

Bill Bridges, founder member of PUMA22, told the meeting that the withdrawal of free health care was unjust, unjustifiable and immoral. He also said they were concerned that families and those on low incomes were particularly at risk and there was a danger of someone dying because they could not afford to join the new private insurance scheme being proposed.

Let Down

Bill told RTN: “We stated our position and said that we felt we had been tricked, and that in any case, we were already contributing by way of taxes and support for the regional and local economies,” He continued: “We were told that this new law did not replace an existing law as there had never been one in the first place. This statement is one that we will explore in detail. Essentially, they said that the granting of free healthcare should never have happened at all, and was an error.” Mr Bridges said the Valencian Authorities did undertake to look at each case individually and sympathetically under the ‘sin recursos’ scheme and that all those who felt that they were not able to afford to join the new scheme should therefore apply for ‘sin recursos’. We have asked for full details of the “sin recursos” rules and how and where to apply and the consulate staff have undertaken to supply us with all the relevant details.

“We stated that we felt that the Embassy and Consulate had not kept us as fully informed as they should have done regarding their own discussions with the Valencian Authorities and that we felt let down very badly by the UK Government. It was clear to me that both the Valencian representatives and those from the Embassy and Consulate had hoped that this meeting would have resulted in us finding it unnecessary to demonstrate, en masse, on December 10th.”

Opportunity

Bill concluded: “On behalf of PUMA22, we thanked the Valencian health service representatives for this opportunity to explain our position. We welcomed their promises of sympathetic hearings for those unable to afford to pay, what is in reality an insurance premium, and we accepted their assurances that there should be no risk to life caused by the implementation of this new scheme.”

Meanwhile, RTN contacted Martin Fitches, Country Manager at the British Embassy. He told us: “We arranged a meeting, despite it not being within the usual remit of the Embassy’s responsibilities. The Valencian Health policy prior to 2008 was not backed up by a corresponding law. There was no specific healthcare law and as a result it was over generous. In 2008, the authorities implemented a new law to regulate the system and this gives residents in Valencia the opportunity do have something that no other Spanish Autonomous Region offers, and that is to pay for healthcare through a quarterly payment scheme.”

Severe Pressure

Martin continued: “If people were not UK state pensioners or contributing to the healthcare system by means of social security payments, they had 18 months notice to find alternative means in which to get their healthcare provisions. During that time it has been given free of charge.

“Anyone who cannot afford the new scheme has the opportunity to obtain means tested free health care benefits and for those people who don’t qualify and still cannot afford those payments, the Valencian Authority has very kindly agreed to look at these cases on an individual basis.” Martin added: “This agreement to look at all individual cases has been made on the proviso that that no further demonstrations or protests be made. The Valencian Health Authority took offence at the fact that the group was complaining, especially as they have been receiving access to their first class health system at the cost of the Valencian tax payer. They are adamant that no promises have been broken and would like to reiterate that the Spanish healthcare system is under severe pressure due to the aging population. They also hinted that, at central government level, there are discussions which could see Spain implement a system similar to that of France where 30% of treatment costs must be paid by the patient.”

Martin concluded: “This was a positive meeting with very generous proposals made on the part of the health authority. PUMA 22 should not go and shoot themselves in the foot by organising to protest against the authority and, in our opinion; they should accept these proposals as they are, above and beyond what the authority has to do legally for the British expat.”

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