Expats and tourists caught up in Spanish hospital scam

Published:  5 Mar at 6 PM
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A damning report has revealed several Spanish public hospitals are working with a company charging triple the actual medical fees to non-Spanish patients.

A document shared with an English language expat-focused newspaper is claiming the International Care Patient Association is acting as an intermediary between non-Spanish patients and the hospitals themselves and can charge whatever it pleases on condition the medical facilities get a cut. According to the report, Barcelona’s Hospital del Mar has an agreement with ICPA to get 55 per cent of the company’s inflated charges.

Last year, Hospital del Mar treated some 1,616 non–Spanish patients, most of whom were tourists, and received an amount of €852,000 for the treatments. ICPA charged the patients more than double that amount, a total of around €1.8 million. A second Barcelona medical centre, Sant Pau Hospital, is also working with ICPA to manage non-Spanish patients, but doesn’t’ have an actual agreement stating the percentage they must receive as it simply requests its costs of care are covered. Recently revealed figures suggest ICPA is charging patients even more than at Hospital del Mar.

One unfortunate German tourist was treated at Sant Pau after he’d suffered a heart attack, and was charged €68,000 for a bypass operation but the real cost, according to his insurance company, was €19,908. In this instance, the insurers took ICPA to court. Previously, the company operated within many tourism and expat hotspots including Marbella and Valencia, and also had offices in Portugal, Turkey and the Balearics until it was shut down following a raft of court cases brought both by insurers and by patients.

According to the report, although the majority of patients had either private medical or travel insurance, between 15 and 20 per cent of the total number of patients at the two hospitals were charged the full amount, and money was demanded upfront from a number of those treated.
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