Healthcare Status: When You Belong to Nowhere

Citizens have been able to enjoy tremendous opportunities since the European Union was created. People can move freely: they are allowed to study, to work, to find love, or to start a family in whichever country they choose within the EU while still enjoying their fundamental rights. But what happens if somebody suddenly falls permanently ill? Isabelle and Daniel Riquier shared their personal story with us. The hassle they had to go through is dreadful. Their experience is something that is unusual to see in mainstream media, but we cannot simply overlook on this side of Europe. We cannot overlook persons with disabilities.

“Our life abruptly collapsed with my multiple sclerosis and all the consequences it generated.”

Isabelle and her husband were one of those couples who lived with the given opportunities and they had been leading a fulfilling life over the last decades, rich in both personal and professional experiences. They had been working for more than 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry, enjoyed taking up professional challenges, and travelled extensively. In 2007 they moved to Slovenia. “Our life abruptly collapsed with my multiple sclerosis and all the consequences it generated.” – told us Isabelle while she was sharing the background of their thoughtful story about how the European healthcare system failed in their case.

Isabelle was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2010 during a family vacation in France and since then their whole life had turned around. A never-ending journey from doctors to government administrations has just begun. They were advised to leave Slovenia to get better treatment for Isabelle, so they moved to Germany and the rest is a history of constant struggles. When it turned out their French insurance did not cover entirely their costs in Germany, Isabelle had no choice but to travel monthly to Strasbourg to ensure her treatment and get proper coverage of her health expenses. Continuous travels were exhausting and counterproductive, thus the couple decided to move back to Slovenia where healthcare reimbursements were more in accordance with the French insurance requests but language, administrative and financial barriers put them to an even more difficult situation. In the end, a hospital in south France admitted Isabelle for semestral check-ups, but all these stressful travels and hassle left the couple in a distressing situation which ended up with Daniel having a stroke in 2019. Consequently, their health conditions obliged them to start leading a less hectic life and stay in Slovenia, which seemed to be the right decision until they faced the long waiting lists, language barriers, complexity of the local healthcare system. In addition to these, Isabelle’s physiotherapy appointments took roughly one year to be organised due to the heavy administrative health system and then delayed in regards of COVID-19.

The cherry on the top?

Isabelle did not obtain her disability status from the Slovenian Authorities, since she is not yet a permanent resident. To be in conformity with local Slovenian regulations, the couple had to put an end to their administrative connection with their home-country, France. As a result, they cannot get any eventual social assistance or support with employment. Even though Isabelle tries everything to make ends meet and manage a life with more dignity, she justifiably feels that the European system left them alone in an extremely difficult situation. A world full of possibilities left her with no options since her and her husband’s health have declined.

Options for Solution

Does this story suggest that you are only a worthy European citizen until you are able to work? Are you only allowed to exercise your right to free movement or entitled to get treatment when you are in full health? The sad truth is this story can happen to each and every one of us. Do we belong nowhere then? There are some initiatives that are trying to help this issue. A pilot has been launched for the so-called European Disability Card with 8 European countries on board in 2016 for the mutual recognition of disability status. You can read more information about EDF’s analysis on this particular policy here.

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