Sunday, 6 March 2011

EU enlargement at taxpayers expense


I was happy to assist the Sunday Times with this exposure of yet another area of EU abuse of taxpayers money. I suppose this is a different type of EU enlargement!

MEPs can put Viagra pills on expenses

Medical cover for Euro MPs and their families lets them claim for ‘cosmetic’ treatments – and costs the taxpayer £3m a year

Marie Woolf
Published: 6 March 2011
  •  Viagra (PA) MEPs can claim for Viagra, alternative therapies and anti-ageing treatments (PA)
MEPs and their families can have “cosmetic” treatments — including breast reductions, slimming products and facial hair removal — paid for by the taxpayer in a medical expenses regime described by critics as “ripe for abuse”.
This year’s £2.9m budget for Euro MPs’ medical expenses covers anti-ageing treatments and alternative therapies including lymphatic drainage, a delicate massage that helps the body eliminate toxins.
The scheme also allows breaks at health spas. The taxpayer funds at least two thirds of the cost of all treatments, and many are 100% covered.
The details are revealed in a leaked copy of the Practical Guide to the Reimbursement of Medical Expenses. It shows MEPs are reimbursed not only for conventional medical treatments for conditions such as cancer, diabetes and emergencies such as fractures, but also elective treatments.
The generosity of the system for “cosmetic” treatments has led to claims that it is a perk rather than essential for protecting MEPs’ health.
By contrast there is no private health insurance scheme for MPs, although some have successfully claimed for treatment on expenses. They can call on a parliamentary nurse and are referred to an NHS surgery in Westminster.
Other aspects of the health package on offer to MEPs are conspicuously generous. In Britain, few hospitals give more than three rounds of IVF funded by the NHS, with many allowing only one cycle. In Brussels, however, MEPs and their families are entitled to have up to five cycles paid for.
Other treatments include drug rehabilitation and the prescription of narcotics as part of treating withdrawal symptoms.
The husbands and sons of female MEPs can also claim for private treatment to resolve problems with impotence. Viagra is available if the condition can be shown to stem from serious illness.
The budget this year for MEPs’ sickness and accident insurance represents a 36% increase on the £2.2m that was spent on medical bills in 2009.
Nikki Sinclaire, independent MEP for the West Midlands, said: “This is a huge amount of money and every penny comes from the taxpayer.

“Most families are tightening their belts, and many people are concerned for their financial futures. But the allowances in Brussels keep going up and up. It’s yet more taxpayers’ money you don’t hear about.
“The system in Europe remains ripe for abuse and that needs to go.”
The leaked guide also reveals that MEPs and their families can have stays of up to 21 days at thermal health spas.
“Thermal cures equal a stay of between 10 and 21 days at a specialist establishment providing treatment under medical supervision,” the guide says. Use is limited to one cure a year, up to a maximum of eight in a lifetime.
MEPs are eligible to visit spas if they suffer from rheumatism, digestive problems, skin disorders and gynaecological disorders.
Unlike officials in the European commission, who have to make contributions to their medical scheme, MEPs are entitled to the benefits without having to put any money in. The scheme has been agreed by European governments, including Britain’s.
The European parliament said the expenses were justified because MEPs spent most of the working week outside their country so could not benefit from health services at home. The rules say treatments cannot be funded if they are purely for cosmetic purposes and must have a medical justification.