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The Catalan Parliament approves new law on the universalization of public health care

On 14th June 2017, the Catalan Parliament approved a new law on the universalization of public health care in Catalonia with the favorably votes of most of the political groups.

The new law represents a step forward in respect of the structural reform of the Spanish National Health System introduced in 2012 by the Royal Decree 16/2012 of 20 April, through which urgent measures to ensure the sustainability of the National Health System and improve the quality and safety of its benefits was intended.

However, the implementation of the approved RDL 16/2012 derived into a setback for the principle of universality of the Spanish Health care System, by which the provision of healthcare services to undocumented migrants, main population group affected by the reform, and other vulnerable groups was restricted. Therefore, the new law only guarantees the provision of emergency health care for undocumented migrants, minors and pregnant women.1

The new Catalan law on universal access to health care guarantees that anyone living in Catalonia, regardless of their administrative situation, will have immediate access to all the benefits of public health, by expanding the right to access health care services to several vulnerable groups excluded by the latest reform of the Spanish health care law. This way, the law guarantees healthcare coverage to all citizens residing in Catalonia, independently of their legal status. This substitutes the previous requirement of having to proof a minimum of 3 months legal residence in the territory, but residency will still be a requirement. It also considers provision of emergency health care to all citizens, residents or not.

In addition, the new regulation also consolidates the “Instrucción 08/2015 de 22 de julio de 2015” (a normative legal resolution), adopted by the Catalan Government in 2015, in which the requirements and actions to be taken by the health care providers towards non-nationals were established. Therefore, this resolution established that non-nationals legally residing in Catalonia and without healthcare coverage under the Spanish National Healthcare System, would have access to emergency health care guaranteed.

According the Catalan officials, the new law complies with international doctrines and consensus by the United Nations, the European Union or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In line with the Catalan Government, other regions in Spain, such as Aragon, has developed similar actions, also to curve the restrictions established by the RDL 16/2012 and guarantee a better healthcare coverage for those vulnerable groups excluded.

Nevertheless, after the approval of the RDL 16/2012, many Spanish regions continued to provide healthcare coverage for undocumented migrants (Galicia, Basque Country, Andalusia, Balearic Islands, etc).

Beyond the individual actions taken by most of the Spanish regions, the Spanish Government has been reconsidering the effectiveness of RDL 16/2012, partially as regards to the lack of adequate medical treatment for undocumented migrants. Therefore, in September 2015 the Spanish Government submitted a proposal to the Inter-Territorial Council of the Spanish Healthcare System for a new common approach for all regional healthcare systems to extend primary care to undocumented migrants with no economic resources and living in the country for more than six months. The proposal considers a special healthcare card with a validity of one year and only in the Spanish territory would be given to undocumented migrants, who would need to proof lack of financial resources and/or medical insurance.2

No decision has been taken in that respect to-date.

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1 http://redacoge.org/mm/file/2015/Jur%C3%ADdico/Informe%20Sanidad%20RED_ACOGE.pdf

2 https://www.msssi.gob.es/gabinete/notasPrensa.do?id=3748