EU says Spain discriminates against foreign pensioners

Fecha Publicación: 
1 Marzo 2011

Denial of free medication lands Spain in European Court of Justice

Costa del Sol News, 01 | 03 | 2011 - Noticia

The European Commission last week announced it will take Spain to the European Court of Justice for refusing foreign EU pensioners access to free medicine while temporarily residing in Spain.

"The commission takes the view that the Spanish rules are not in line with EU law as they discriminate against pensioners from other EU member states," said an official EU press release.

EU social security legislation states that pensioners temporarily residing in another member state can use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to receive necessary healthcare under the same conditions as pensioners from that country.   Under Spanish law, pensioners get their prescription medication for free.

However, the commission says that Spanish authorities "refuse free medication to EU pensioners because the European Health Insurance Card does not indicate that they are pensioners."  To get free medications, foreign pensioners must present an additional document from their national social security service certifying, in Spanish, that they receive a state pension.

"The requirement to present such a supplementary document is contrary to the purpose of the European Health Insurance Card, which aims at simplifying procedures and reducing red tape for insured persons when they need health care during a temporary stay in another member state," says the commission.

Spain's Health Ministry rejects the idea that Spain discriminates against EU pensioners or denies them access to free medications.  It says the Spanish government has for years been complaining to the European Commission about the EHIC failing to identify pensioners as such. The ministry says Spain supplies free medication to all EU citizens temporarily living here who properly identify themselves as pensioners.

For UK pensioners, the British Consulate can issue a certificate confirming pensioner status.  The document, valid for three months, is available free of charge by providing an EHIC, plus recent pension payment correspondence from the Department for Work and Pensions, addressed to the person's UK address.

Contacted by Costa del Sol News, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed that "state pensioners do not pay for prescriptions in Spain, though they may be asked to prove that they are pensioners" by using the certificate that can be provide by the Consulate.

For medical care, the EHIC is sufficient.  "Although some hospitals have mistakenly asked customers for travel insurance details and credit card or bank details, British tourists should be aware that they are not required to give this information and the EHIC is the correct document to enable them access to healthcare in Spain," said an FCO spokesperson.


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