Saturday, March 19, 2011

UK Cracks Down on "Health Tourism" Abuses

ETurboNews: Foreigners who abuse the NHS (National Health Service) by coming to the UK for treatment as "health tourists" then leaving without paying the costs are to be banned from returning to Britain.

The crackdown on the scandal comes after it emerged that the health service has lost more than £32 million ($51.9 million) in two years to foreigners who received NHS care but refused to pay their bills.

Those from abroad who owe more than £1,000 ($1,623) for treatment they received in the UK will be barred from entering the country again. Doctors will be required to give a foreign patient’s details to officials if they think they should be charged for their care.

Ministers say the scheme will cover up to 94 per cent of the people who currently owe money to the NHS. Many doctors had warned that the proposed rules could jeopardise their confidential relationship with patients and could deter some illegal immigrants from seeking care. But the Government has dismissed their objections, saying that NHS bodies have a legal obligation to recoup money owed to them.

Currently anyone visiting this country is entitled to free emergency care. But those from outside the EU are supposed to pay for further treatment such as chemotherapy or non-urgent surgery. However, many do go on to receive follow-up treatment and then leave without settling their bills.

Last month it emerged that one American had received more than £100,000 ($162,300) of care for pneumonia but had left and never paid the bill. Immigration Minister Damian Green said: “The NHS is a national health service, not an international one. If someone does not pay for their treatment, we will not let them back into the country.”

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