Lithuania rues failure of cross border healthcare

Lithuania expected the EU cross border healthcare directive to deliver many paying patients; it has failed to do so.

It had hoped that by offering patients from Western countries shorter waiting times and significant reductions in treatment costs, hospitals would see a flood of medical tourists paid for by their own countries. The EU Directive on Cross Border Healthcare became law on 25 October 2013. Since then there has been a tiny trickle of patients, not many more, if any, than before,

Odontika dental clinic in Vilnius has seen a handful of patients that have successfully claimed part or all of their treatment costs back home. Most of these are from Germany, Norway, and Sweden.

What’s the problem?  Governments who publicize that patients may have access to treatment in other countries, are, in effect, admitting that the health service at home is overburdened and/or over priced and/ or underfunded. So no country has done much to publicize the overseas option.

Other roadblocks include high costs, bureaucracy and lack of awareness for patients when trying to use their rights under the cross-border initiative, according to patients’ groups and European Commission officials.

According to EU Health Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, “Some countries have very elaborate systems of prior authorization; others seem to use a lower level of reimbursements than they should and others have different administrative requirements.”

Getting state payment for dental care overseas is particularly difficult as many EU states provide limited dental healthcare cover and dental implants are not covered.

Lithuania medical tourism is mostly dental treatment either for care not covered at home by health insurance, or only with a high deductible-making it cost effective for patients to look overseas. Some German health funds do allow overseas treatment but cover has a high deductible any way, so is not worthwhile unless there is a lot of dental work needed.

For non-dental medical tourism, the Directive has not changed numbers in or out at all.