The Health Care Tourism is one of the activities identified in the XIX Constitutional Government Program as a priority in the development of sectorial policies, aiming, through the Government in particular, for health tourism to become one of the areas of promotion of new strategic clusters.
Within the guidelines of such promotion, there has been developed an inter-ministerial effort by the Ministries of Health and Economy and Employment, which includes the creation of a work group with the goal to define a plan of action for Health Care Tourism. To such work group, established by the Order n.º 15689/2012, Ministry of Economy and Employment and Health, of 10 of December, it is attributed the task to promote the legal framework adaptation, the identification of partnerships to establish Portugal as a Health Care Tourism destination and the drafting of competitive products and services.
The objective to promote Health Tourism, seeking to gather the recognized expertise of Portugal in the area of health care and tourism, is also clearly identified in the Strategic National Plan of Tourism (SNPT) for 2013-2015, recently approved by Resolution of the Council of Ministers n.º 24/2013, of 16 of April. Pursuant to its terms, the project to develop Portugal as a destination for international excellence in providing health related services is presented as a strategic product within SNPT, reinforcing the legislative and governmental effort in establishing Portugal as a premium destination for the market of health care services.
Recently it was also approved another relevant instrument pursuing the objective set out by the Portuguese Government, due to the opening of the market of Health Care Tourism to public entities that are part of the National Health Service. The publication of the Regulation on the Price Schedules of the Institutions and Services of the National Health Service (henceforth "Regulation"), through the Ordinance n.º 163/2013, of 24 of April, and in particular its scope of application as determined by article 1º, entails another important step towards the promotion of Health Care Tourism in Portugal. The Regulation establishes the prices to be charged by institutions and services within the National Health Service, and allows these institutions to charge inferior values within specific contracts agreed with public or private entities. The Regulation also allows for the possibility to charge different values, either superior or inferior prices, for services provided to entities in another States within specific contracts.
The establishment of these rules is essential to the promotion of partnerships between entities inserted in the National Health Service and national or international relevant agents for the distribution and commercialization of health tourism as a product, as well as to the internationalization of the value chain for health care and tourism. Effectively, pursuant to article 1º of the Regulation, the institutions and services integrated in the National Health Service, who were previously obliged to charge exclusively the prices as established by the respective price chart, are now granted an autonomy margin in which they can determine different conditions within the scope of partnerships which may enhance the utilization of their services, allowing therefore to ally the access to services of the National Health Service to touristic services.
Finally, and just as relevant, it is worth pointing to the role played by Directive 2011/24/EU of the European Parliament and Council, of 9 of March, for the promotion of Health Care Tourism, in which the juridical foundations for the creation of a European market for health care are established. Pursuant to its terms, such services are considered to be within the scope of the fundamental principle of freedom to provide services. The Directive 2011/24/EU creates the necessary conditions for the promotion of this international market of health care, namely regulating the regime of transnational health care reimbursement amongst States and institutions.