Ministry backtracks on healthcare entitlement restrictions

Legal residents who don't contribute to Social Security will not be left out of system Law will get tougher on residents from European Union who neither work nor study

From restricted access to an open hand. The legislation being drawn up by the Health Ministry to accommodate the budget cuts in healthcare has changed tack dramatically. The draft, which EL PAÍS has had access to, states that legal residents (either Spanish or foreign) who do not contribute to Social Security will not be left out of the system as planned. Instead, all they need to do is prove that they make less than 100,000 euros a year.

That is a radical change from an April decree that stipulated that non-contributors had to prove a complete lack of income in order to be eligible for a public health card.

But that decision left out social groups like rentiers or members of religious congregations, who do not pay Social Security, but have an income. The new legislation is an attempt to patch up these holes. From now on, anyone over 26 who has never paid Social Security will still be allowed to use the public health network, as long as they make under 100,000 euros a year.

But at the same time, the law gets tougher on residents from the European Union who neither work nor study - such as retired people who live off a pension or personal savings, for instance.

From now on, their residency will be subject to their "not becoming an excessive burden on Spain's social assistance."

The purpose of the legislative change is unclear, but several experts consulted by EL PAÍS said that the point is to prevent people from coming to Spain without a job but with resources (for instance, after selling his or her house back home), and later abusing the system when their money runs out. In other words, only EU residents who can pay for their own upkeep may remain here.

The draft legislation says that "resorting to social assistance in Spain by a citizen of the Union or a member of his family will not automatically result in expulsion."

Meanwhile, illegal immigrants will no longer have unrestricted access to the system, but instead will only be allowed emergency care.


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