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Spanish government does U-turn on healthcare access for immigrants

Staff writer ▼ | April 4, 2015
Illegal immigrants living in Spain will once again have the right to free primary healthcare with a general practitioner (GP), after losing access in 2012.
Spain immigrants
Europe   Giving rights to immigrant in Spain
Undocumented residents will not be getting their health cards back, however.

Health Minister Alfonso Alonso said the Popular Party (PP) government has decided to backtrack on its earlier decision "for public health reasons," because it is "more practical" and "in order to not saturate the emergency services."

Under the health reform of 2012, free access to all public health services was taken away for illegal immigrants. Instead, general care was restricted to minors and pregnant women, although any migrant could still visit a hospital’s emergency room in the event of an accident or if they had an infectious disease. The decision attracted strong criticism from the opposition at the time.

"We see it very clearly now, and we are working on it," said the minister in an interview with Efe news agency. "It makes no sense for them not to be seen in primary care."

With regard to withholding the health card from undocumented migrants, Alonso said that handing them out "would give a right in Europe that does not exist in any other country."

The government is not contemplating any further changes to the current health system. Asked whether the prescription medicine co-payment introduced in 2012 would be repealed as well, Alonso said he did not support that move because Spain has always spent a lot of money subsidizing prescription medication, and it is necessary to "keep very stringent controls over it."