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Universal Access to Health: How Can We All Contribute?

©MedicinesForEurope

On 27 April, health stakeholders gathered together in Brussels to explore avenues for collaborative contribution and commitment to better access for better health. A joint effort by EPF and other important players, the debate called for contributions from all parties involved, in a more holistic approach.

The 4th edition of this joint conference – organised by EPF, Medicines for Europe, the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) and the European Social Insurance Platform (ESIP) – provided a good platform for stakeholders to foster dialogue and recommendations on a more efficient commitment.  

Opening the event, MEP Andrey Kovatchev (EPP, Bulgaria) made clear that: “We need to convince other decision-makers that health is a big topic for Europe”, and added that he will use his position as co-chair of the EP Interest Group on Access to Healthcare to advance the topic and reduce health inequalities. He argued that although access should be a reality for every EU citizen, this is far from reality. In order to move forward and improve patients’ access, Mr Kovatchev suggested to change focus from economics to outcomes, build sustainable systems resilient to an ageing population, implement the Cross-Border Healthcare directive, and work on indicators to better monitor the system and have a clearer picture of its accessibility.

MEP José Faria (EPP, Portugal) took the opportunity of the current debate on medicines pricing to call on the European Commission to reinforce the role of Member States at the negotiation table with all stakeholders and to promote a more collaborative HTA system. He called for the creation of sustainable and efficient healthcare systems, alleviating barriers to patients’ access at the same time as the economic burden for countries.

Representing the European Commission DG SANTE, Sylvain Giraud reminded the audience that the EU called for an effective, accessible and resilient health system back in 2014 already. Mr Giraud put a special emphasis on principle 16 of the recently adopted European Pillar on Social Rights, which states that ‘everyone has the right to timely access to affordable, preventive and curative health care of good quality’. “The European Social Pillar can be a powerful tool to achieve access, including universal health coverage,” he concluded.

EPF Secretary General Nicola Bedlington seized the opportunity to present the EPF campaign on Access to Healthcare calling – in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on Health – for Universal Health Coverage by 2030. She urged policy makers to remove short-term views and policies. “If we don't get the UN SDG goal on health right, we won't be able to implement a lot of the other goals,” she said. “In some countries health is a low priority and we have now the chance to change that and move forward. We need a political roadmap to contribute to shaping an EU action plan towards achieving universal access by 2030,” she stated.

The room agreed on the importance of involving all relevant stakeholders, and highlighted the need to build sustainable healthcare systems, and strengthen competition and sustainability of EU markets. “We need to be bold and brave because the challenge in front of us is enormous,” stated Yannis Natsis, EPHA Policy Coordinator, who also called for taking HTA as a real opportunity to increase affordability and sustainability of EU health systems, and urged the EMA to do more to facilitate biosimilars and generics entry to the market.

Finally, the event was also the opportunity for all stakeholders to reassess the added value of health collaboration at EU level  “In a moment when universal access is an absolute must for society, health is not a priority for the EU,” lamented Nicola Bedlington. All panellists showed their willingness to take action and avoid a scenario where EU collaboration and actions in health would shrink, because, as Yannis Natsis stated, “the EU without health is not the EU.”