Expat Focus International Healthcare Update March 2020

Health around the world has been dominated this month by the outbreak of Covid-19, which is taking up most of the healthcare bandwidth in the news at the moment. It is advisable to check out your host nation’s government website with regard to Covid-19, as protocols vary on a country-by-country basis and are changing day by day as the pandemic advances.However, some other matters of interest to expats in relation to health have been happening too, and we provide a round-up below.

Portugal in talks to extend the EHIC

Post-Brexit, Portugal has been negotiating to extend the EHIC to Britons living and visiting the country. The British are economically very important to the Portuguese economy, contributing around 1.5% (€3bn) to the nation, and the government is anxious to show willing to Brits who are continuing to flock to the country.

Rita Marques, the Portuguese tourism minister, is keen to keep Briton’s healthcare rights in Portugal, not only by continuing to offer the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) but also in keeping costs for British nationals in line with those paid by Portuguese citizens.

Under the new agreement, Britons would make the same co-payments as locals: for example, €14 (£11.70) and €18 for emergency medical services, and €9 – €45 for a consultation with a GP or clinic.

Spain pushes private healthcare forwards

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It is perhaps just as well that the Portuguese government is proving so co-operative, since the healthcare situation in Spain has already driven a number of expats over the border into Portugal. What’s the reason for this? After December 2020, the Spanish authorities are insisting that expats take out private health insurance. Local media says that ‘thousands’ of expats have been flocking into Portugal, where healthcare is of a good standard but less costly than in Spain.

Dubai implements ‘patient journey’

The government of Dubai is keen to attract health tourists to the region and with this in mind, has set out a 14-point ‘patient journey’ for those interested in seeking treatment in local clinics. The plan proceeds as follows:

• find your treatment through the DXH website
• search for a compatible doctor/healthcare facility
• verify that they have been approved for the purposes of medical tourism
• contact them directly and supply your medical records
• book an appointment
• book your travel insurance

You can do all this through the DXH website, in addition to checking visa requirements, booking hotels, and sorting out a ‘Marhaba’ pick-up service if required.

Footing your Covid-19 bill in Thailand

We have reported issues between expats and the Thai national healthcare service over the last few months and the situation with coronavirus is not helping matters. Expats who contract Covid-19 should in fact be covered by public healthcare, but tourists who get the virus while they are in Thailand will be expected to pay for their own medical treatment.

Covid-19 is particularly worrying to the traveler, not simply because of the unpleasantness of falling prey to the virus and the limitations imposed on freedom of movement, but also because some travel insurance will not cover associated medical costs – and your home government may not either.

Both the Australian and the US governments have said that their embassies will not pay medical bills and that Australian and US nationals should have a health insurance plan with overseas coverage. The US government has insisted that US citizens should return home by commercial air rather than waiting for evacuation.

Your ability to travel freely is likely to be undergoing severe restriction at present anyway, but if you are obliged to travel during the course of the outbreak, and are able to do so, it is recommended that you check your travel insurance very carefully.


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