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HEALTHCARE

Patients to be charged for non-urgent ambulance journeys to healthcare centers

The government is expected to pass the co-payment system at a meeting next week

The Health Ministry is proposing a copayment system for non-urgent use of ambulances that amounts to five euros per trip.

The concept of copayment for ambulance use was included in an overhaul of the sector, approved by the government in April as part of its austerity drive.

The payment system is expected to be passed in the form of an executive order at the next meeting between the central government and the regions - which are responsible for healthcare in Spain - that is due to take place on Thursday of next week.

The text of the order, to which EL PAÍS has had access, sets the conditions that patients must meet to have access to transportation by ambulance, and the maximum amounts they will have to pay.

Patients will be asked to pay 10 percent for each ambulance trip

It establishes a base price for calculating the copayment of 50 euros, independent of the real price and length of the trip. Patients will be asked to pay 10 percent of that amount per trip. A return journey would, therefore, cost 10 euros.

The draft order defines three types of trip: the transfer of a patient from a health center to his home after receiving emergency treatment or after being released from hospital; those that are "occasional" and those that are "periodic" in the case of chronically ill people receiving, for example, dialysis or cancer treatment.

As with the copayment system for medicines, the order establishes a monthly maximum that patients will be required to disburse on the basis of their income. For those earning between 18,000 and 100,000 euros, the maximum payment per month is 20 euros. For those earning less than 18,000 euros, it is 10 euros, and for those earning over 100,000 it is 60 euros.