The crisis in health services is Europe-wide. The pace of market-driven health “reform” has speeded up since capitalism’s 2008 crash as neo- liberal governments—with both conservative and social democratic labels—have imposed the costs of saving the banks on working people.
Public health services, with their massive property holdings, substantial staff numbers, and massive cost streams, are a tempting target for cuts and privatisation.
Even the pro-EU European Trade Union Institute pointed out that “EU institutions are calling for major health care reforms as a means of consolidating public expenditure.”
Countries under the cosh—such as Greece—or others “in receipt of financial assistance” get no choice but to implement these “reforms” and are obliged to do as they are told in their various “memorandums of understanding.”
As the ETUI says, “other member-states too have been encouraged to undertake reforms to their national health systems. While initially the encouragement was issued in the form of ‘recommendations,’ these have, under the most recent changes in European economic governance, become increasingly tantamount to ‘instructions’.”
Decisions of the EU Court of Justice and the EU Commission mean that services provided by national health systems are now considered economic activities, and EU rules on the internal market (the free movement of goods, persons, capital, and services), public procurement and state aid increasingly apply to them.
A directive on cross-border health services in 2011 by the EU Commission, drawing on internal-market rules, presented this as an expansion of “choice” for patients.