“710 euros is a fortune for those without papers. They can’t get sick!”
Immigrant associations are angered by the government’s plan to charge for healthcare
Vladimir Paspuel, president of the association of Equatoguinean immigrants, Rumiñahui, says it is “completely false” that immigrants are abusing the healthcare system.
“There are many studies to show this, as the majority of them are young and healthy. Health tourism, where foreigners come to Spain for operations, is largely a European phenomenon… not one of immigrants that come outside of the EU,” he explained. “Rumors have spread that immigrants are abusing the system and taking jobs. This has happened in all societies in times of crisis: people look for a scapegoat, the weakest being the immigrant. This is untrue, and the experts who advised the government on this plan have provided false and distorted information. We would have liked to have been consulted before.”
Vladimir is worried immigrants “will resort to self-medication and home procedures” to avoid paying the fees proposed by the Popular Party government of Mariano Rajoy. For the under-65s, the cost will be 710.40 euros a year, or 59.20 a month. For those over 65, the fee will rise to 1,864.80, or 155.40 a month. Some, such as minors and pregnant women, will be excluded from the fees.
Josep Basora, president of the Spanish Society of Family and Community Medicine, finds the proposal unreasonable. “These people do not have the money to pay for the costs through insurance. Those of us that attend to them on a daily basis understand this. We are talking about excluded people who have no resources or legal residence permits,” he says.
Many immigrants, an estimated 150,000 of them, only manage to get by with help from NGOs, and Brigida Moreta, a worker at one of these organizations, feels the plan by the government is an “attack against life and dignity.”
Mónica García, in charge of Red Acoge, feels that the system Health Minister Ana Mato and her department have opted for will only increase socioeconomic inequalities. “In addition, the marginalized, along with all Spanish citizens, contribute to the maintenance of the healthcare system through indirect taxes,” she explains. Her organization specializes in the promotion of immigrant rights.
Former Socialist representative, and current president of the American, Spanish, Solidarity and Cooperation Association (Aesco), Yolanda Villavicencio, is also opposed to the measure, which she feels would “deprive the most vulnerable group in society of a fundamental right, forcing them to depend on conscientious objector doctors and civil society.”
These measures, she adds, “send a very negative message to society: if you don't get medical attention, it’s because you are surplus to requirements. I just returned from London where I encountered many highly qualified Spaniards working as dishwashers and waiters due to their lack of English proficiency. They are fleeing the country, and although it’s for a practical reason, those immigrants who stay here should be taken care of rather than stigmatized.”