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Spain to reinstate primary healthcare for illegal immigrants

Source: Reuters - Tue 31st Mar 2015
Spain to reinstate primary healthcare for illegal immigrants

Illegal immigrants in Spain will once again be able to get free primary healthcare at doctors' surgeries, the government said on Tuesday, doing a U-turn on an unpopular policy in a busy election year.

The government withdrew the right to general healthcare for tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in 2012 as part of a program of spending cuts.

the policy was highly criticized by doctors, refugee activists and opposition parties, and, since the ban excluded emergency treatment, has led to pressure on emergency wards.

"It seems more sensible and more reasonable for (primary healthcare) to be carried out in health centers so that among other things emergency centers are not overwhelmed," Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told a news conference when asked about the policy change.

Rajoy's People's Party is keen to show voters it is serious about reversing austerity policies passed at the peak of the euro zone debt crisis and is at pains to adopt more socially aware measures before elections over the next few months.

The party did badly in elections in Andalusia this month and there are local and regional elections due in May and September and a general election by the end of the year.

Rajoy, however, insisted illegal immigrants would not be given back their social security health cards, which give cardholders the right to extra care and medicines. According to official data, 800,000 people had their cards withdrawn after the reform was passed in 2012.

"They are not entitled to a health card, as they are not entitled to one in any other EU country," Rajoy said.

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