The social affairs ministers of Belgium, Luxembourg and France reiterated, on 26 January, at a conference in Brussels on health care, their conviction that legislation is needed. Given the risk of seeing attacks on national health care systems under internal market and competition rules - several complaints are being reviewed on limits on PET scans in Belgium, and on the establishment of pharmacies in Spain, Austria, Hungary, etc - the three ministers have called on the European Commission to establish a "moratorium on legal proceedings," until the results of the Commission's future communication are known. "That would be an elegant solution," commented Belgian Social Affairs and Public Health Minister Rudy Demotte.

In his opening remarks as a guest speaker at the conference, Klaus Theo Schroder, German State Secretary in the Health Ministry, summed up the findings of the Potsdam conference in January, voicing the need for "regulations with real added value". He shares the other ministers' objectives for any future EU legislation: "accessibility, universal care, high quality care and the sustainability (or viability) of social security systems".

Health care services represent "something specific and very special," observed Mars Di Bartolomeo, Luxembourg's Minister for Health and Social Security. "Health care is admittedly a service, but one that is not like others. One of its components is sound financing. It brings together not only the client and the service provider, but also a third player: the state, the public services, the insured," he continued. "This sector cannot be left to case law alone. It is our political responsibility to take action," declared French Minister for Health and Solidarity, Xavier Bertrand. "Leaving the sector to market forces will inevitably end up creating a two-tiered health care system, where the affluent will be able to get all the care they like and the others will have access only to basic services," added Rudy Demotte. "That cannot be justified either ethically...

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