EU study exposes Tory ‘benefits tourism’ lies

October 14, 2013 at 8:38 pm (benefits, Europe, health service, immigration, Jim D, Tory scum, truth, welfare)

Healthcare spending on non-active EU migrants - estimates

The EU Commission’s report (Impact of mobile EU citizens on national social security systems) leaves no room for doubt: the Tories’ campaign against so-called “benefits tourism” is based upon a pack of lies.

The report finds that “mobile EU citizens are less likely [ie than the national average] to receive disability and unemployment benefits in most countries studied.” In the UK, EU migrants account for just 4% of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants while representing more than 5% of those in employment.

EU spokesman Jonathan Todd told BBC Two’s Daily Politics, “the vast majority of migrants go to the UK to work, and they actually contribute more to the welfare system than they take out, purely because they tend to be younger than the average population, and of working age. The more EU migrants you have, the better off your welfare system is.”

The report also contradicts the claim, published in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph  that “600,000 unemployed migrants are living in Britain…at a cost of £1.5 billion to the NHS alone”. The 600,000 figure turns out not to refer to those who are unemployed but to those who are “economically inactive”, including pensioners, students, school children and the disabled. Of this total, those out of work and claiming Jobseekers Allowance amount to just 28%. In addition, the figures published in the study show that EU migrants are less likely than their UK counterparts to be economically inactive or unemployed. Thirty per cent of migrants are “non-active” compared to 43% of British citizens, while 7.5% are out of work, compared to 7.9% of UK nationals (the unemployment rate at the time the study was conducted).

Here’s the statement from László Andor, the Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion:

The study makes clear that the majority of mobile EU citizens move to another Member State to work and puts into perspective the dimension of the so called benefit tourism which is neither widespread nor systematic. The Commission remains committed to ensuring that EU citizens that would like to work in another EU country can do so without facing discrimination or obstacles.

Downing Street responded by issuing a statement saying there is “widespread and understandable” concern about “benefit tourism”: in other words, never mind the facts, just pander  to prejudice.

It would be nice to think Labour will take a principled stand on this, but given recent statements from the Shadow Cabinet, that’s probably too much to hope.

NB: In writing the above, I made extensive use of this report on the New Statesman website – JD

12 Comments

  1. EU study exposes Tory ‘benefits tourists’ lies | OzHouse said,

    […] Oct 14 2013 by admin […]

  2. Mike Killingworth said,

    To many people this study will simply represent yet another reason for leaving the EU.

  3. Bablu Rahman said,

    The right believe it’s ok to lie or exaggerate to further their agenda.

  4. R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

    Which is exactly what you would expect given that in every country most health care spending will be on the old who are much less likely to be immigrants….

  5. dagmar said,

    It is also a fact that the government/Department of Health does not – unlike most other EU countries – bother to bill other countries’ health departments/systems for treatment the NHS has carried out under the recioprical EHIC (formerly E111 /E128/…) scheme.

    As a worker in Germany I am part of the German system but once became ill when in the UK. Despite me repeatedly pointing this out and giving them all the details required, the NHS clinic was not interested in the slightest in getting the money back from Germany, indeed, I discovered a few years later, I had also been kindly ‘registered’ with a local GP I have never met at a NHS centre I have never heard of.

    It was also annoying that I was unable to get sick pay from my German employer as the NHS/Department of Work and Pensions (responsible for getting the money back) refused to confirm I had been ill and also refused to reply to letters from the German health service (who also wanted to invoice for the treatment).

    I seem to remember reading something similar about the relationship between the Republic of Ireland and the UK, which pays a very low sum, much less than any estimates would suggest might be reasonable, to the NHS for treatment of Irish citizens who understandably come to Britain or Northern Ireland for healthcare.

    At the same time the NHS/DoH/etc. pay up the bills they get from other EU states’ health services, for treatment of British citizens and residents, which is fair enough.

    So fuck all this “benefits tourism” nonsense – the NHS could have quite a bit more income if anyone was bothered about collecting it.

    • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

      Good point.

      NHS trusts do not seem to routinely report on EHIC claims but the odd FoI request has emerged see for instance:

      http://www.kgh.nhs.uk/about-us/access-to-information/freedom-of-information/freedom-of-information-disclosure-log/august-2013/european-health-insurance-cards-payments/

      This suggests that at least some hospitals do effectively pursue EHIC claims (although the average sum involved per transaction – £120,000 from 254 cases or less than £500/claim in this example – are so low that I suspect the admin and transfer costs gobble up much of whatever is made back and this could be a factor in your not having your claim pursued?).

      If you have an actual case yourself why not submit an FoI to the relevant NHS authority to establish whether it makes any EHIC claims from Germany and then raise the issue with whoever the local UK MP would be?

      • dagmar said,

        I suspect though the nature of the NHS means it is not as easy to collect money or to calculate what it might be ‘owed’ from elsewhere compared to say Germany, which doesn’t have national insurance funded through taxes and contributions, but a ‘social insurance’ system funded only through contributions, in which various (effectively) private health fund companies compete with each other for ‘members’ and with which individual hospitals, doctors, dentists, opticians, masseurs, orthopaedic shoe shops and convalescence cure homes and resorts, etc. settle their bills once per quarter. There’s an automatic (and no doubt expensive and certainly very bureaucratic) paper trail to everything done in the German health system which means billing can be done at the touch of a button. That doesn’t mean there’s no fake billing or corruption going on though (quite the opposite, especially when it comes to large hospitals).

        It is good that so much of the NHS budget isn’t wasted on this (it’s wasted on other stuff instead, of course). But there must be a better system than now when it comes to estimating what the NHS is owed, say, by France, Germany, Ireland, etc.

        I also think there’s nothing wrong with making people who come to any other country on holiday from having some kind of health insurance policy that would cover them while abroad, at least for emergencies. It’s for your own good anyway (though I acknowledge that travel insurance bought in the UK costs significantly more than the 8 Euro per year it costs over here, even if I can’t understand why).

        At the same time (I think the tabloid, and maybe even some of the ‘left’ press got worked up about this a while back) there’s nothing wrong with the NHS enforcing the law when it comes to things like road accidents. Drivers have to have insurance, and if you cause accidents it’s only reasonable that that effects your premium. But that only happens if a claim is made. It shouldn’t make any difference to the treatment of patients, but if the NHS goes to that drivers’ insurance company and says “your policy holder has caused us 250,000 quid’s work and treatment, and we are billing you for it”, that’s fair enough. The driver isn’t getting billed him/herself, and the treatment of the accident victim is still free at the point of use. It’s purely using insurance for what it is for, and, if I remember rightly, under the terms of the law. The question again is though: would this cost more in bureaucracy than it brings in? (And would it just lead to the NHS budget being slashed even more by getting in the money in another way).

      • Mike Killingworth said,

        The answer to the question in your last sentence is clearly “yes”.

      • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

        Re RTAs (and I believe other cases where personal liability for injury applies) NHS trusts do collect money from insurers (and have done so since at least 1999) – just as they do collect significant sums of money from EHIC cases.

      • R F McCarthy (@RF_McCarthy) said,

        And looking at the data from the FoI I linked to I don’t think it is the system that is at fault – properly designed mechanisms do exist to recover costs between EU health services.

        The question is whether the UK is necessarily collecting everything that it is due and this is problematic precisely because the NHS is now a National system in name only and every trust and now CCG is very much a law unto itself.

        A more efficient system might be to set up a national agency to process all claims which would then introduce economies of scale and allow effective negotiation of rates.

        But that would require reversing twenty years of privatisation and marketisation of the NHS….

  6. dagmar said,

    The answer to that last sentence is clearly “yes” and “but that’s not going to happen”.

  7. New Statesman | EU study shreds the myth of “benefit tourism” « Dr Alf's Blog said,

    […] EU study exposes Tory ‘benefits tourists’ lies […]

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