Healthcare in the European Union

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Citizens' health is an important priority for the European Union. EU health policies complement Member States' policies to ensure that everyone living in the EU is protected from serious cross-border health threats and has access to quality health care.

While the individual member states are responsible for the organization of health care, the EU complements national policies in order to achieve common goals. The EU’s role in preparing for and addressing serious cross-border health threats is essential to protect Europeans. The EU is taking measures to implement vaccinations to prevent resistance to antimicrobial agents and to prevent and contain pandemics and other infectious diseases such as Ebola. EU health policies also create economies of scale by pooling resources and helping EU countries address common challenges, such as risk factors for chronic diseases or the impact of longer life expectancy on health systems.

What the EU is doing

The EU’s health policy focuses on addressing serious pan-European health threats, preventing disease and ensuring equal access to quality health care for all. A healthy population is also good for the economy, which is why the EU is committed to making EU health systems accessible, efficient and resilient .

The EU is active in a wide variety of areas, such as building capacity to promote vaccination uptake, pooling knowledge about cancer, promoting healthy lifestyles and regulating tobacco use. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control assesses emerging threats so that the EU and national health authorities can respond quickly. All medicines in the EU must be authorized at national or European level (by the European Medicines Agency ) before they are placed on the market to ensure that patients receive the best possible treatment.

The third EU health program is the main instrument for implementing EU health policy. With a total budget of 449 million euros, cooperation projects at EU level and joint measures by national health authorities are financed, and non-governmental organizations and cooperation with international organizations are supported. In addition, € 7.5 billion will be invested in health research and innovation through the Horizon 2020 program , while the Connecting Europe Facility , EU Structural Funds and the Investment Plan for Europe will provide funding for health infrastructure and health care digitization will.

The European Health Insurance Card makes it easier for travelers to get treatment if they fall ill while traveling in another EU Member State. What rights they have when they travel specifically to another EU country for treatment is regulated in EU legislation on cross-border healthcare . Thanks to the European reference networks, patients with rare or complex diseases benefit from the best specialist knowledge throughout Europe without even having to leave their home country.