Home » Expat Focus International Healthcare Update November 2023

Expat Focus International Healthcare Update November 2023

Italy: New Charges for Non-EU Resident Expats 

In October 2023, the Italian government announced that it will be charging non-EU residents slightly over €2000 a year for access to the country’s public healthcare system, as part of its 2024 budget. The move has been denounced as unconstitutional by trade unions and opposition parties, but the government says that it is simply updating the voluntary payments that are already in place for some overseas residents in the country, such as diplomats. The Italian government has stated that foreign workers (including job seekers and migrant workers) will continue to have free access to the system. Keep an eye on this if you’re affected by it, as there has been resistance to the move and it may yet be overturned. 

Insurers Announce New Premiums in the Netherlands

Health insurers in the Netherlands had until November 12th to announce new premiums. Be aware of any rises if you’re signed up with one of these companies, as prices are expected to increase. However, you have until January 2024 to change your insurance provider if you’re not happy with your new deal. 

Czech Health Authorities Advocate Exercise

The Czech public healthcare system may soon be advocating exercise as a preventative measure and including it in health insurance policies, Health Minister Vlastimil Válek has told the press this autumn. Obesity is regarded as a big problem in the republic, and if you’re signed up to a health insurance provider, it may soon be worth exploring the possibility of claiming exercise costs through your policy! The government is keen for nutritionists to get on board as well. 

The Spanish Press Warns Against Nolotil

Metamizole, marketed under the name Nolotil, is one of Spain’s bestselling analgesics, but the drug has come under fire from the Spanish media in recent months. The prescription painkiller is widely available in Spain, but banned in other countries, such as the UK.

The drug is prescribed in cases of fever and acute pain but does not respond well to other medication. It used to be available as an over-the-counter drug, but this was revised after the deaths of 10 Brits in 2018 as a result of agranulocytosis, a condition which results in sepsis. It’s not clear exactly why these deaths occurred – patients may have been using it incorrectly, or may have had some kind of predisposition against the drug, but medication regulations in Spain are strict and Nolotil was withdrawn by the Agencia Española de Medicamentos y Productos Sanitarios (AEMPS).

The drug also has side effects, such as anaphylaxis and angioedema (swelling, including that of the respiratory tract). Overdosing can result in gastrointestinal bleeding.  In addition, La Dirección General de Tráfico (General Directorate of Traffic) has been warning drivers against taking Nolotil this November, as well as other painkillers such as paracetamol, and steroidal anti-inflammatories or corticosteroids, whilst driving. 

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Spain: Medications to Drop in Price

In early November, the Spanish medical establishment announced a price drop for over 17,000 medications currently available in pharmacies and hospitals. Overall, they say that this will result in an estimated saving of €217.54 million. Reference prices were published in the Official State Gazette and are due to come into force within a couple of weeks, although it should be noted that pharmacies will continue to dispense at the retail price prior to the reduction until December 31, 2023, so you won’t see a a decrease until then.

UK Retirees Seek Care Homes in Thailand.

The Daily Telegraph reported this month on British pensioners who are swapping the challenges of the NHS for private retirement resort care in Thailand. The sunny climate is an obvious attraction, but the main reason for this radical shift is cost; a care home in the UK is likely to set you back around £800 per week, or over £1K if nursing care is included, whereas care homes in Thailand cost in the region of £500 per month. Those thinking of obtaining care in Thailand will need to apply for a retirement visa, which comes with some financial strings attached – there’s a monthly income requirement, for instance. You’ll also need to be signed up with a health insurance provider. 

The British government says that a number of Thai care homes already meet their care quality standards, and the level of one-to-one care is significantly higher than in the UK, where care homes are beset by an ongoing national staffing crisis. The Thai culture of respect for the elderly is also appealing to retirees, especially in the wake of some unpleasant scandals in British care homes. The move has proved particularly attractive to retirees whose children are working in Thailand, but it has evidently had a wider appeal for those who are prepared to broaden their horizons and look abroad for their care in later life.