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Are EU judges the real regulators of European health systems?

03-Oct-2011

European health systems - regulated by case law or policy decisions?

In my role as senior health advisor for Edelman, I moderated this session - and it's clear that this is a topic that continues to provoke discussion!  Professor Stefan Callens (KU Leuven) gave us an insightful introduction to the topic, emphasising the need to see health as a system, influenced by wider society and developments in technology, as well as law.  Professor Callens highlighted four areas of influence from EU law in particular: competition law, the developing impact of rulings on services of general interest, organisational issues such as the distribution of pharmacies and the working time directive, and the new directive on patients' rights in cross-border healthcare.  From discussion, it was clear that many others share both Professor Callens' analysis that there is still more impact of EU law on health systems to come, and that this impact is not always fully understood or accounted for - public procurement was another issue raised, for example.  Indeed, the financial crisis and reform pressures may increase the impact of EU law - as heath systems seek to use more market mechanisms in order to save money, they will also be bringing their health systems more into the scope of areas such as competition law.  Overall, this was a very interesting session, and showed that anyone expecting the recent directive on cross-border healthcare to be the end of the story of EU law influencing health systems will be disappointed - there's a lot more to come yet.

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