A slippery slope for health?
The European Commission will publish its health directive next week and it is meant to make it easier for people to travel to get specific medical treatment in another EU country.
British diplomats say this is NOT the same as making sure that if you fall sick in Slovakia or have an accident in Austria you can get treatment straight away.
It is what some people call "health tourism” and both critics and fans say it will allow people to shop around for health care.
The British Government is at pains to stress its going to be pretty limited in its impact. No wonder.
But the Compass group is claiming that it would mean that patients could pay for private medicine in one country and claim the money back in Britain, and that could eventually destroy the NHS.
They've got 33 MPs to sign a motion condemning the plan which they say could be the beginning of the end for the NHS.
The former health secretary, Frank Dobson, says it will be "catastrophic" for the NHS if this directive goes through.
"The Commission either has no idea what damage this will cause to our NHS, or they simply don't care," he says.
"It will allow the rich to 'top up' NHS costs to get better treatment. MPs and trade unions will do all they can to avoid this Brussels directive becoming law here."
“Nonsense,” says Labour’s health spokesperson in the European Parliament.
“If it was like that we’d chuck it out,” Linda McAvan told me.
She says that the aim is not to promote people moving around seeking health care, but to clear up the current situation, where people get treatment, then have to go to the European courts to force their country to cough up for the cost.
“We need to have a law," she says. "At the moment it ends up in the courts. Nobody knows their rights.”
Both Linda McAvan and British diplomats stress that your local national health trust would have to approve both the treatment and its cost before you go abroad. And the decision has to be taken on medical grounds.
This story is interesting for another reason : just how will it be portrayed ? At one time I would have bet it would have been seen in certain newspapers as a threat that the Good Old NHS could be overwhelmed by a horde of sick foreigners.
Now its more likely to be "a savage indictment" (F8 on any good hack's keyboard) of the state of the NHS.
That aside, are the left wing MPs right that it’s the top of a slippery slope? Do you believe the reassurances? Or, for that matter, what on earth is wrong with health tourism?
Do tell me.