EU countries hold primary responsibility for organising and delivering health services and medical care. EU health policy therefore serves to complement national policies, and to ensure health protection in all EU policies.

EU policies and actions in public health aim to:

  • Protect and improve the health of EU citizens
  • Support the modernisation of health infrastructure
  • Improve the efficiency of Europe’s health systems

The European Commission’s Directorate for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) supports the efforts of EU countries to protect and improve the health of their citizens and to ensure the accessibility, effectiveness and resilience of their health systems. This is done through various means, including by:

  • Proposing legislation
  • Providing financial support
  • Coordinating and facilitating the exchange of best practices between EU countries and health experts
  • Health promotion activities

Stella Kyriakides is the current EU Commissioner for Health and Food safety.

More information about EU health policy.

European Health Union

In reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, the European Commission took the initiative to build a European Health Union, in which all EU countries prepare and respond together to health crises, medical supplies are available, affordable and innovative, and countries work together to improve prevention, treatment and aftercare for diseases such as cancer.

The European Health Union aims to:

  • better protect the health of EU citizens
  • equip the EU and its Member States to better prevent and address future pandemics
  • improve resilience of Europe’s health systems

EDF sent recommendations on the European Health Union Package presented in 2021, focusing on: involvement of representative organisations of persons with disabilities, right to life, equality and non-discrimination, preparedness and response, accessibility, data collection and EU’s external actions.

Beating Cancer Plan

Cancer is one of the main priorities of the European Commission in the health domain.

Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan aims to prevent cancer and ensure that cancer patients, survivors, their families and carers can enjoy a high quality of life. The plan includes actions and flagship initiatives covering the entire disease pathway:

  • prevention
  • early detection
  • diagnosis and treatment
  • quality of life for cancer patients and survivors

EDF advocates for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the European’s Beating Cancer Plan, focusing on accessibility of prevention, diagnostic and treatment by persons with disabilities. This requires a more inclusive and accessible healthcare system.

Patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare

Under certain conditions, patients have a right to obtain funded healthcare in a Member State other than their Member State of affiliation (i.e. the State in which they are insured). This means that they are entitled to seek diagnoses, treatments, medical follow-up and prescriptions abroad, and to send the bill back home.

Rights to cross-border healthcare can be based on Regulation 883/2004 or on the Patient Mobility Directive. There are important differences between these instruments regarding e.g. whether prior authorisation is needed, whether private healthcare providers are included, and how the healthcare is funded. Patients are entitled to choose whichever instrument is more favourable to them.

Which route is more beneficial to patients depends on the situation. Regulation 883/2004 is often more favourable, as patients do not have to pay upfront and there might be an entitlement to a supplement. The Patient Mobility Directive might be attractive because it often lifts the authorisation requirement, or because it includes fully private healthcare providers. Under EU law, it is never mandatory for Member States to reimburse extra-disability related costs.

EDF advocates for a revision of the Patient Mobility Directive for equal access to patients with disabilities to cross-border healthcare.