| FOREIGNERS and Spaniards who are not entitled to free healthcare and are not allowed to pay Social Security may be able to get treated by paying an annual or monthly fee, according to the minister of health.
Ana Mató proposes that Spanish people or other EU citizens who are neither working, on a State pension nor on the dole - there remains a grey area as to whether unemployed persons whose dole money has run out are able to get healthcare - and non-EU immigrants without resident rights can pay 710 euros a year to be treated via the public service.
This would be split into monthly payments of 59.20 euros, but would rise to 155.40 euros for the already-strapped over-65s, based upon the fact they will probably need more medical attention on average than younger persons.
As things stand, those who are not self-employed are unable to make the monthly Social Security payments expected of those who are, and which would have entitled them to free healthcare.
This means even those early retirees who could afford to pay it would not be allowed and would be unable to obtain free medical assistance - a huge problem for those whose pre-existing health conditions attract exclusions or prohibitive premiums for private insurance.
Mató claims the idea is to prevent so-called 'health tourism', whereby immigrants put their entire families on the padrón - even though they are living in their country of origin - in order to bring them over to Spain to be treated free of charge.
Certain EU citizens, including Brits, have been unfairly accused of this, but a recent open letter to a national newspaper from UK ambassador for Spain Giles Paxman refuted the speculations.
Visitors from the UK to Spain can rely on their EHIC cards - formerly the E111 - for emergency or urgent ongoing treatment, which is claimed back from the UK government.
They would not be entitled to any more than this unless they paid, and would not need to travel to Spain to treatment as they will always be given medical attention in Great Britain free of charge irrespective of taxes paid, job situation, or nationality.
Both the PSOE and the united left, Izquierda Unida, say they are completely against immigrants having to pay for healthcare - or jobless Spaniards, who already struggle simply to be able to eat.
They say the 'health tourism' cited by the PP is practically nonexistent, since it would be impractical and in most cases unnecessary for foreigners travelling to Spain.
And the medical college governing body, OMC, says it is an ethical right and duty of doctors to treat all patients irrespective of nationality - not only can they not justify allowing a patient's condition to worsen or lead to death or long-term damage due to the person's race or financial situation, but it is in the public interest to prevent illness and diseases.
They believe the public health service, by its very definition, should cover anyone who resides permanently in Spain.
Fees proposed by the ministry are practically as high as insurance premiums for private medical care and, as they will even apply to permanent residents who are not 'in the system', a significant part of Spain's population - those with no money - will be badly hit.