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Cost of exclusion from healthcare – The case of migrants in an irregular situation

September 4th 2015

On the 3rd of September, the European Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) published a report on the provision of healthcare for migrants in irregular situation in the EU. Research suggests that Member States would spend less on migrant health by treating them earlier, rather than waiting until they require emergency treatment.

As the refugee crisis is at the core of the European agenda, it must be highlighted that many irregular migrants who have entered the EU are denied access to health screening and preventive treatment. In 2011, the FRA issued a report showing that EU Member States’ policies concerning irregular migrants’ access to healthcare services vary substantially, often only allowing access to emergency healthcare. Cost of exclusion from healthcare – The case of migrants in an irregular situation, the most recent FRA publication, implies that these policies are counter-productive, since testing shows that providing access to regular preventive healthcare for migrants in an irregular situation would be cost-saving for national healthcare systems.

Based on an economic analysis, the research examined the situation in Germany, Greece and Sweden for two of the most common healthcare issues in the EU: hypertension and prenatal care. Following available data, the report suggests that providing regular healthcare to hypertensive patients could:

  1. generate savings of approximately 9% over the space of one year, rising to 13% after five years and 16% over a lifetime
  2. help prevent more than 300 strokes and more than 200 heart attacks per 1,000 migrants in each country

Moreover, improved prenatal care could generate savings of up to 48% in Germany and Greece and as much as 69% in Sweden over the space of two years.

In sum, this publication proves that timely healthcare provision for irregular migrants would not only contribute to the fulfilment of the right of everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, but would also be economically sound. With many countries reducing their social welfare spending in the wake of the financial crisis, FRA’s findings are particularly relevant as they show that economic justifications back up the case for fundamental rights and Member States’ obligations under international human rights law. Together, these form a powerful argument to improve healthcare provision for irregular migrants throughout the EU.

The report is available here.