04 September 2015

A new research by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) suggests that Member States would spend less on migrant health by treating them earlier, rather than waiting until they require emergency treatment.

In its latest report, presented on 3 September, the FRA compared the costs of providing regular access to healthcare for irregular migrants with emergency treatment only. Based on a decision tree model, FRA used economic analysis to assess the cost of regular access to medical treatment for hypertension and prenatal care in Germany, Greece and Sweden. The two medical conditions that were the subject of this research were chosen based on the prevalence of those conditions among migrants in an irregular situation, the cost-impact of each condition if not treated and finally the cost and complexity of the analysis. The countries were selected based on the essential differences in the way they handle access to healthcare for migrants in an irregular situation and the way public authorities are involved in healthcare provisions.

With regards to hypertension, the research showed that regular use of preventive healthcare, compared to no access to healthcare, would result in cost-savings of around 9% over one year, 12-13% over a period of five years and 16% over a lifetime. What is more, it would help prevent more than 300 strokes and more than 200 heart attacks for every 1,000 migrants in each of the three countries. According to the research’s results, providing access to prenatal care could generate savings of up to 48% in Germany and Greece and up to 69% in Sweden over the course of two years. Providing prenatal care was proven to be cost-effective taking into account the costs of managing additional cases of low birth weight babies associated with the non-provision of prenatal care.

It is also worth mentioning at this point that the above mentioned cost-savings could be underestimated since FRA adopted a conservative approach, excluding costs not incurred by the healthcare system and based on the assumption that every migrant entitled to access regular healthcare services actually makes use of them.

To conclude, the analysis pointed out that access to preventive healthcare for irregular migrants guarantees the right of every person to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health set forth in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, but is also a cost-saving compared to providing medical treatment only in emergency cases. As already highlighted in FRA’s 2011 report  Access to healthcare in 10 European Union Member States, healthcare to migrants should not be limited to emergency cases only, but should also include other forms of essential healthcare.