Spain's medical tourism is under threat as unpaid bills pile up

Medical tourism in Spain is under threat: a lot of unpaid bills have accumulated

Spain is facing a new problem – medical tourism is experiencing serious difficulties due to unpaid medical bills by tourists. Clinics confuse so-called medical tourists traveling to Spain for treatment with those who travel to Spain on vacation and need urgent treatment but leave without paying the bill. In this regard, on Friday, June 24, Spain finalized plans to pay off health care debts in its regions after some pharmacists closed their doors in protest of unpaid bills in the country, Schengenvisainfo reported.

Great Britain is considered the largest supplier of vacationers to Spain. However, not many have taken into account that after the exit of the Nordic country from the EU, the rules regarding cross-border health insurance for British tourists have also changed. Due to the lack of information about getting medical care in Spain among British citizens, the UK already ranks first in the list of countries with unpaid medical bills.

After Great Britain, Germany, France and Italy got into the list of bad debtors. At the same time, the leading destinations outside of Europe with the highest number of unpaid tourist bills are the United States and Argentina.

The process of collecting payments from patients, especially outside the EU, after they have gone home is complex and often ends poorly for the hospital. Thus, the accumulated receipts do not please the Spanish hospitals. All these sentiments and the loss of profits loomed over medical tourism. In particular, the coastal regions of Spain had to face the problem of foreigners leaving without paying medical bills due to the large influx of tourists to these areas.

In addition to hospitals, the government of the Balearic Islands (Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera) has been burdened with unpaid bills. It has been estimated that the total debt thus created in the period 2019-2022 now stands at more than 7 million euros (382.5 million rubles). To solve this problem, the Balearic Health Service decided to hire an external company to collect unpaid invoices from travelers and medical tourists who were treated in hospitals or medical centers in Spain and never paid for it.

Spain is dealing with the issue of collection since 2012. Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria explained that at that time the government had paid about 17 billion euros to suppliers in its autonomous communities and more than 9 billion euros to local councils in Spain. 73 percent of this money will go towards paying unpaid medical bills.

In addition, the Balearic Ministry of Health and Consumer Protection has also launched a public tender to find a company that will track “medical” tourists and make them pay by accounts.

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