The clarification from the Ministry of Health (MS) follows news released by Expresso, which claims that there are foreigners using the SNS to access expensive treatments.
According to Expresso, there have been repeated cases in recent months of foreign pregnant women, who do not live in Portugal, who arrive at hospitals and maternity wards only for the delivery of their child.
“The phenomenon was identified by the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF) and ended up in the arms of the counterterrorism unit of the Judiciary Police (PJ), which has been keeping sensitive files related to suspected immigration cases, due to the announced end of the SEF”, writes the weekly.
The newspaper claims that doctors have reported cases of patients from foreign countries using the SNS to access treatment that would otherwise be expensive in their own country, with among the most requested services including antiretrovirals, pre-exposure therapy to HIV (PrEP), drugs for diabetes or cardiovascular diseases.
Questioned by Lusa on this matter, the MS explained that the use of the SNS presupposes the attribution of the National User Number which, among other provisions, associates the existence of the so-called “Third Payer”, a situation that applies, for example, to situations of people with temporary residence in Portugal.
According to the ministry, 1,560,468 foreigners are registered in the National Register of Users (RNU), of which 457,436 correspond to the situation called “Third Payer”, which are cases in which “citizens have access to the public health service, but in that the financial responsibility for the charges arising from this provision does not lie with the SNS”.
“The SNS assumes a central role in guaranteeing the right of access to health in Portugal, within the framework of a welfare State that is based on principles of equity, solidarity and free provision at the time of provision, thus guaranteeing the provision of timely and reliable health care, regardless of their economic, social, geographic and even legal status, in the case of immigrants”.
The Ministry of Health adds that the organizational model of the SNS is assumed as “an essential service for the promotion and protection of the health of citizens and safeguarding public health”, incorporating administrative issues that reinforce Portugal as a country that is supportive and inclusive of all.