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Health tourism: Do we need a crackdown?


Non-EU migrants entering the UK will have £200 added to the cost of their visas as a payment for any healthcare they may receive while in the country, under a bill proposed by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

The move strikes Willard Foxton, a self-proclaimed 'card carrying Tory', as hapless politicking. He writes in the New Statesman:

"While it's designed and marketed as dealing with some kind of incredibly rare edge case - someone like Bimbo Ayelebola, the Nigerian single mum of quintuplets, the bulk of the people who will end up paying it are the New York lawyer, the Australian student, the Indian entrepreneur - the kind of immigrants who in theory, we want.

"As usual with this sort of measure, the largely imaginary people it's designed to stop either won't pay it, or will pay the small levy and be health tourists anyway  - £200 looks pretty cheap compared to the average hospital bill."

Spending figures back Foxton up: £12m of the health service's budget was lost to health tourism last year, or 0.01 per cent. A crackdown may well cost more than it saves.

The Daily Express' Ross Clark nevertheless rattles into a strong defence of the proposal:

"Much though we may wish the world’s poor to enjoy the standard of treatment that we have it is an impossible task for British taxpayers to fund an international health service. Either the NHS is policed properly or we will lose it."