a patient in hospital bed checked by doctor

The Minister of Health said today that the SNS will cover the cost of care for Portuguese emigrants, whenever the Portuguese state is unable to collect it from entities such as insurance companies or social protection systems for these citizens.

“The establishment of financial responsibility allows the Portuguese state to obtain reimbursement of expenses, if a responsible financial entity is found,” Manuel Pizarro told Lusa at the end of a hearing in the Parliamentary Health Committee.

Asked which entity would be responsible, Pizarro replied: “I don’t know”.

But he added that this entity could be Social Security, an insurance company or a mutual fund, and that it would not be necessary for Portuguese citizens living abroad to hold a European Health Insurance Card, which allows access to healthcare in other European Union states, the European Economic Area and Switzerland.

At issue is the application of an order (no. 1668/2023) that “defines the organizational rules and management mechanisms relating to the National User Register (RNU), as well as the rules for registering citizens with the SNS and for registering with primary health care”.

The new rules stipulate that Portuguese nationals with tax residency abroad will have their registration “inactive”, even those who frequent the services.

In addition to no longer having a family doctor, if they do have one, these users will have to bear the cost of the service: “With the exception of death situations, the condition of the charge assumed by the citizen applies to inactive registration,” reads the order.

According to Manuel Pizarro, “what this order clarifies is that, regardless of freedom of access, regardless of whether any Portuguese citizen living abroad is charged for using the SNS, the Portuguese state has the right to try to verify whether there is any responsible financial entity with which it can be reimbursed.”

If it is not possible to identify this entity, “nothing happens”, he said, adding that the expense is “obviously” borne by the SNS.

“There is no charge to any Portuguese citizen,” he stressed.

Manuel Pizarro’s visit to Parliament, the last of this legislature, was requested by the PSD “on the payment of medical services provided by the SNS by Portuguese people living outside Portugal” and by Chega, “to provide clarification on the changes to the rules of the National User Register (RNU)”.

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