Access to healthcare for beneficiaries of international protection in Hungary – analysis and recommendations – Summary
Health statistics do not collect data of applicants and beneficiaries of international protection separately, so we have little data on their health status and access to benefits. This has been a particularly acute problem during the COVID-19 epidemic.Refugees may have special health problems. Newcomers may suffer from diseases with a long incubation period, often preventable by vaccination. The care of asylum seekers with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with mental health problems, requires appropriate expertise.
Under current law, beneficiaries of international protection must be provided with health care under the same conditions as nationals, that includes screening, vaccinations, officially prescribed treatments. Minors and full-time students are entitled to full health care. Recognized refugees are entitled to free benefits for 6 months after being granted status.
The current Public Health Strategy does not take into account foreigners among patients, except for health tourism. At the same time, those working in the health and care professions have received very little training on (public) health care for beneficiaries and applicants for international protection. Therefore, giving them a kind of procedural scheme, protocol, could make access to health care more uniform, improve treatment, and thus indirectly help the integration of beneficiaries of international protection.
Refugees often refrain from using the public health system, even if they know they are entitled to benefits, because it may turn out that they are not legally employed by their employer. It can also be a problem that they do not have a social security number, which is the basis of all benefits.
For all these reasons, the availability and adequacy of health services and preventive care must be improved through the institutional cooperation of the Hungarian and EU authorities:
- There is a need to harmonize existing test protocols in each EU Member State and to create an interoperable electronic health information system.
- The electronic data recording system and database in Hungary should be suitable for the planning of special care, prevention and professional research purposes, separated on the basis of the health data of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of protection.
- Have a doctor present at the reception stations and immigration authorities at all times should be compulsory.
- Have an up-to-date, online database of trained interpreters, intercultural mediators who are available by telephone and paid for by the authority or health insurance, and information materials in foreign languages, as well.
- An assessment and examination of the vaccination status of adult asylum seekers and individual consideration of vaccination should be developed.
- The impact of physical and mental illness and mental stress caused by integration should be assessed.
- Migration and asylum health care should be part of medical training, and health and psychological aspects should be taken into account when performing border policing and asylum tasks.
- The assistance of health professionals who have arrived as refugees should be used to maintain the functioning of national health systems, and the introduction of the European Qualification Passport for Refugees (EQPR) would help authorities to speed up authorization procedures.
Full policy brief in English version is available here