Immigrants’ Access to the Spanish National Health Service: Summary

This summer I traveled to Cádiz, Spain to conduct research on the role of immigrants in the Spanish health care system, as demonstrated through the implementation of their rights to access public health services.  Through the study of a variety of resources—from newspaper articles to government publications to topic-related presentations—I soon learned about the obstacles to practical implementation of these legislated rights.  This problematic implementation originates with legislation in which the language indisputably defines the fundamental right to health care without providing concrete information on how to implement it.  Even so, Spain’s 17 autonomous communities, which principally administrate health care services, endeavor to facilitate immigrants’ access through measures that facilitate greater comprehension between them and autochthonous Spaniards.  In Andalusia, for example, these measures included informational brochures translated into several languages and a resource guide aimed at educating health professionals regarding issues specific to immigrant health.  Yet, even the most well-intentioned resources may founder, whether through their lack of key information or through inadvertent miscommunication.  Though the government needs to be the major representative among the entities involved in the implementation of the immigrants’ right to health care, it also requires the support of other entities, such as NGOs and other members of the private sector.  The economic crisis that began in 2008 and continues today complicates this already problematic implementation of immigrants’ rights by diverting attention away from its original goals and toward more challenging practical, economic concerns.