Home » Expat Focus International Healthcare Update August 2023

Expat Focus International Healthcare Update August 2023

Pojištovna VZP’s Monopoly Comes to an End

In Czechia, the monopoly held by Všeobecná zdravotní pojišťovna (VZP) over expats’ health insurance appears to be approaching its end, with the Chamber of Deputies voting for its removal. The proposed minimum health insurance coverage for expats has been set at a limit of €400K, which is significantly higher than the originally suggested amount by the Senate. The Senate has also advocated for the establishment of a register for health insurance intended for expats, to be managed by the Czech Insurers’ Bureau (ČKP). According to the new legislation, it would be possible to terminate your insurance policy with VZP after an initial period of three months, enabling you to choose your own health insurance provider.

The Czech Insurance Association’s (ČAP) director Jan Matoušek told the press that ČAP is in favour of the new legislation and that:

“…thanks to the abolition of the monopoly of the Pojištovna VZP company, the market conditions in the insurance of foreigners will be leveled out and clients will once again have a choice and thus a better-quality service.” 

Expats Charged Extra for Blood Transfusions in Kuwait

In May of this year, Dr Ahmad Al-Awadhi, Kuwait’s Health Minister, announced that charges would be introduced for expats needing a blood transfusion. The justification for this is the preservation of the country’s blood reserves. The fees have been set as follows:

  • KWD20 (approximately US$65) for expat residents in Kuwait per bag of blood 
  • KWD40 (approximately US$130) for foreigners on tourist visas 

Expats will also be charged for blood tests with a varying range of fees. If you find your own blood donor, however, you’ll be exempt from these costs, and exemptions are also made for children, cancer patients and emergency cases. 

Survey Shows Top European Healthcare Systems

The website insidermonkey.com has revealed its recent survey of the best healthcare systems in Europe. The results are as follows:

  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Netherlands
  • Luxembourg
  • Finland

The inclusion of Sweden and Finland comes as no surprise. The regions of Scandinavia and Finland have consistently maintained high-quality national healthcare standards. In Sweden, the life expectancy stands at 79 years for men and 83 years for women. Similarly, Finland’s life expectancy closely mirrors Sweden’s for men and surpasses it for women, reaching an impressive 84 years.

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However, the recent InterNations survey, which we have covered elsewhere in this newsletter, paints a less optimistic picture for the UK. Expats residing in Britain have criticized the condition of the NHS. Respondents informed InterNations that service accessibility was restricted, and securing appointments with specialists was challenging. Consequently, the UK occupies one of the lowest positions in the InterNations system’s rankings, landing in the bottom 10 slots.

Will Brits Need to Share Health Information When Travelling?

Recent news reports have sparked discussions about the potential necessity for British and other third country travellers to share health information under the EU Entry/Exit System and the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS), set to be launched in 2024. The requirement would entail disclosing health conditions and vaccination status to authorities. However, the official ETIAS website explicitly states otherwise:

“When applying for an ETIAS, travellers will not be required to provide any information related to their health or vaccination status. When applying for ETIAS, travellers will also not be requested to provide any biometric data, such as fingerprints.” 

While queries about criminal history and visits to conflict regions might be part of the questionnaire, the current indications suggest that health-related matters will not be included. The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) assures that 97% of ETIAS applications (note that ETIAS is a permit, not a visa) will undergo immediate processing and approval. Any remaining applications will be evaluated separately.

EU Sends £820 Million Bill to UK Government

The British government has been billed £820 million for the treatment of British expats in the EU, in line with a pre-Brexit agreement which still remains in place. The Department of Health and Social Care says that elderly Brits moving to the EU are costing the UK in the region of £15 million per week. These costs are incurred primarily by retirees: Spain has been the main beneficiary, receiving a net payment of £313 million, whilst France has been the recipient of £149 million. Ireland, Germany and the Netherlands also benefited. 

Since this is a reciprocal arrangement, Britain has received around £74 million in return, and the country is owed healthcare payments from Romania (£5.3million), Bulgaria (£2.2million) and Portugal (£1million).

Expat Doctors Subject to Further Australian Visa Delays

Registration for international medical graduates (IMGs) in Australia has been problematic for some while, with the Australian Medical Association (AMA) telling the press that it is:

“rigorous, expensive, and it takes a long time… the complexity of coming here, including getting a visa, which takes months … and then navigating our professional regulatory system…is a significant barrier. And if they have heard of people that have jumped all of those hoops and still can’t work after years, it is going to stop people coming here.” 

Delays in visa processing resulted in a large number of expat medics unable to work in Australia over lockdown. Karen Price, president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, says that the issue has been particularly pressing in regional areas which have a shortage of medics and which need expat medical personnel to fill the gap. Australia is estimated to have a shortage of over 10,000 doctors in the next decade unless the situation is rectified. Although countries need to make sure that doctors and nurses coming in from overseas are qualified to local standards, and although there is an understanding that applications take time, the level of difficulty experienced by medics entering Australia is generally agreed to be unacceptable. 

In September 2022, a review of the regulations in place suggested that assessments should be simplified. One suggestion was streamlining equivalency assessments for qualifications, so that valuable time is not taken up with trying to ascertain whether qualifications from one country are equivalent to those in the Australian system. The review also suggested that training should be widened and that the requirement of a reflective essay from applicants should be abolished.