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Cross-border medical care: the example of the Community of Valencia

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Cross-border healthcare inside the EU is on the rise. Pre-established agreements between member countries allow EU citizens to access medical care anywhere in the Union. Unlike medical tourism, which patients generally seek out and pay for themselves, cross-border medical care at public healthcare facilities is often paid for directly by the government responsible.

However, because nations vary in terms of the scope of health coverage they offer to their residents, the costs incurred are often not ultimately reimbursed. This may result in a large, and unreciprocated, financial burden for certain countries. In this scenario, Judit Vall, a researcher at the Barcelona Institute of Economics (IEB), Catalina Amuedo (University of California-Merced) and Noelia Rivera (Universidad Loyola Andalucía) have analysed the effectiveness of legislation adopted by the autonomous community of Valencia in January 2012, designed to control cross-border medical care.

Using a full set of administrative data, the authors conclude that the measure led to a dramatic fall in the number of hospitalizations of foreigners, reducing the total cost by approximately 4.8 million euros per quarter. The reduction was uniform across patients’ gender, age and origin, and also across medical procedures, without any significant changes in the duration of treatment or mortality rates.

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