Oct 22 - The UK is considering a package of measures and an annual health care levy on migrants from outside Europe, which it says could save its National Health Service 500 million pounds a year. Ciara Sutton reports.
Charging non-European foreign nationals to use its health service - the UK's plan to help it save up to 500 million pounds a year. It wants to discourage people from abusing the system and is considering a package of measures, including a levy of up to £200 on migrants from outside Europe. A new report suggests temporary migrants are costing the NHS up to 2 billion pounds a year. It says the NHS is considered to have extremely generous rules. UK Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. (SOUNDBITE) (English) UK HEALTH MINISTER, JEREMY HUNT, SAYING: "I think these findings are very very thorough. And what they demonstrate is that there is a big gap between the amount of people who are using the NHS from other countries, and the amount of money we are collecting. I think it's only fair that people who aren't paying taxes to support the NHS should make a fair contribution in other ways." A charge on new arrivals as well as better collection of those using the service would form part of a crackdown on so-called "health tourists", traveling to Britain for treatment. But chair of the British Medical Association GPs Committee, Dr Chaand Nagpaul, is wary of the findings. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR CHAAND NAGPAUL, GP AND CHAIR OF THE BRITISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION GPS COMMITTEE, SAYNG: "The British Medical Association supports that the NHS should be providing care to those that are entitled to NHS services. What we are questioning is whether these figures and the claims of actually saving 500 million pounds is accurate. The figures are unreliable in our view because the authors themselves have stated that it's based upon uncertain estimates and many assumptions." Currently only hospitals are required to charge overseas patients, with emergency care given free. The report comes as the government's immigration bill gets a second reading in parliament. It's aiming to bring in measures to stop migrants abusing public services.