SRtRC look behind the headlines
The Daily Express front page this morning features the headline ‘Migrants will pay for the NHS’.
The article states that the government has unveiled an initial scheme to reward health trusts that reclaim payments for caring for EU patients. A trust can expect a ‘25% bonus for each treatment claimed for’.
In the article Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says “There is about half a billion quid in money we should be collecting from international visitors who use the NHS.”
The Express makes its position clear saying the plan “follows a series of initiatives by ministers seeking to stop migrants milking the welfare state”.
Yesterday, Show Racism the Red Card looked at data from NatCen’s British Attitudes Survey and the subsequent press coverage. The Daily Express coverage focused on ‘EU migrants claiming benefits’. The BSA survey demonstrated that people with an overall negative view of immigration have the most concerns about ‘benefit tourism.’
NatCen states that “Currently there is little evidence that benefit provision encourages migrant inflows or imposes significant costs on the British state, and several academic analyses of the topic have concluded that migrants are not a drain on welfare resources as they are less likely to claim benefits than native born Britons, and more likely to work (Vargas-Silva, 2013; Dustmann and Frattini, 2013).”
According to this report, “the UK is the only EU country to have a lower unemployment rate for migrants – 7.5% - than nationals 7.9%. Of those migrants who are unemployed, an even lower proportion – 1% -, actually claim unemployment benefits, compared to UK nationals (4%).”
Today’s story in The Express is a continuation of the ‘benefits tourism’ theme.
In the article Jeremy Hunt says ““I have no problem whatsoever with foreigners using our NHS, as long as they contribute to it either through taxes or through paying charges.”
1% of the total number of migrants claim unemployment benefits and 7.5% of migrants are unemployed in total, the vast majority of migrants are contributing to the NHS through taxes.
Regulations mean all EU citizens living in another member state must be treated the same as nationals once they have been granted residency. The same regulations that say that migrants only have the right to live in another state if they can prove they won’t be a burden on social security.
The Daily Express implies with its headline that until now migrants haven’t been paying to access the NHS. The article is misleading, because it becomes clear that it is not about migrants’ use of the NHS, it is about overseas visitors.
Jeremy Hunt says in the article, "Trusts have no financial incentive to report someone as an EU visitor.
“We are announcing a premium on the tariff for trusts who report EU visitors using their services, to pay for the extra administrative costs and to create financial incentives so we get proper reporting and we get the money.” (Our italics).
Overseas visitors (EU and non-EU) account for about 0.1% of total NHS expenditure, treatment of between 5,000 to 20,000 people annually.
The NHS can currently reclaim expenditure on treating EU visitors, from the EU, but hasn’t been doing so, to as much of an extent, as it could.
The Daily Express has deliberately conflated migrants with overseas visitors to imply they don’t contribute to the NHS. The newspaper has the view that migrants are “milking the welfare state” despite the evidence to the contrary.
The Daily Express is currently actively engaged in making migrants a scapegoat for many of society’s problems. With reports like this a norm for some of Britain’s newspapers it is no surprise that perceptions of ‘welfare tourism’ as an issue, do not match the facts.