What do the statistics of 2018 tell about cross-border health care?


Extensive statistical information on the cross-border health care in 2018 compiled by the Contact Point for Cross-Border Healthcare and Kela have been completed. You can view the statistics via the contact point’s Slideshare account.

The statistics show that the costs paid by customers for necessary treatment in the EU area decreased in comparison to the previous year. In 2018, customers paid necessary treatment costs in the amount of approximately 2.4 million euros, when in 2017 the costs were 4.9 million euros. Correspondingly, the amount of customer reimbursements also decreased to 1.8 million euros from the previous 4 million euros.

On the other hand, the costs for physiotherapy, medicines and doctor’s fees in the EU area increased slightly in comparison to the previous year. The costs may involve either sudden illness or seeking treatment independently. In 2018, customers paid 708,000 euros in doctor’s fees, for example, and 548,000 euros in 2017. The reimbursements paid for doctor’s fees increased to 88,000 euros from 85,000 euros in 2017.

Estonia, Germany and Spain still the most popular countries

Estonia still holds the indisputable top position among destination countries for seeking treatment independently. Germany has gained popularity in the recent years and has now reached second position. Spain holds the third place in the top three. So, the top three remain the same as in 2017, just a small change in the placings.

With regard to countries outside the EU area, the Finns have used health care services the most in Thailand. The other two countries in the top three are the United States and Turkey. However, in these countries the total costs paid by the customers themselves were considerably smaller than the year before. In 2018, health care costs paid by customers, for example, in Thailand remained under one million (683,000 euros), when in 2017 the sum was approximately 1.5 million euros.

There have been no great changes in the number of prior authorisations granted for treatment to be provided in the EU and EEA countries or Switzerland. In 2018, 215 prior authorisations were granted, while the number was 200 in 2017.

The number of the European Health Insurance Cards keeps growing steadily. In 2018, almost two million persons had the European Health Insurance Cards granted by Kela.

Challenging annual comparisons

When interpreting the statistics, it must be remembered that it is difficult to allocate the costs of cross-border health care to a specific year and this makes it difficult to compare years. Customers have the right to apply for reimbursement for treatment abroad up to six months after the treatment. In addition, there may be a queue in the processing of the applications. Also, the reimbursement requests for reimbursing health care costs in between states are delayed. When looking at the figures, it should also be observed that the sums are directly impacted by the nature of treatment received abroad. A particularly expensive treatment received by a single patient may by itself increase the reimbursement amount in a specific annual column.