Immigrants temporarily regain right to free healthcare in Basque Country

Constitutional Court lifts bar in region on basis of risk of infectious diseases Co-payment system will stay in place for prescription medicines

The Constitutional Court has lifted part of the suspension of a decree approved by the then Basque government of Socialist Patxi López that sought to circumvent legislation passed by the conservative Popular Party government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy withdrawing free healthcare to immigrants without papers, judiciary sources said Monday.

Until the court makes a final ruling on a dispute between the two administrations as regards to who has power in the issue, immigrants can receive free healthcare in the Basque Country.

The court ruled that that the bar on illegal immigrants -- except in the case of pregnant women, minors and emergencies -- not only put their health at risk but also undermined campaigns against the spread of certain infectious diseases, thereby “seriously affecting the health of society as a whole.”

As regards the economic arguments the government used to justify the removal of free healthcare from undocumented immigrants, the court said the right to healthcare “could not be nullified by the mere consideration of eventual economic savings.”

The court had suspended the effectiveness of the Basque decree following an appeal against it by the Rajoy administration lodged in July. The Basque government argued that immigrants represented the group most affected by infectious diseases, “posing a risk of contagion for the rest of the public.”

The part of the decree that remains suspended refers to the co-payment system for prescription medicines after the court accepted the arguments of the solicitor general’s office, which submitted figures on spending on pharmaceuticals by the Basque government.

Some 910,000 people, of whom some 25,000 live in the Basque Country, were deprived of free healthcare by the central government.

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