Spain's private hospitals have ramped up a campaign against 15 British travel insurance companies which they claim are misleading holidaymakers and putting their lives at risk.
The country's private healthcare providers also claim that the possibly fraudulent action of the insurance companies is leading to higher costs for the healthcare systems of both Britain and Spain.
The Spanish Private Healthcare Alliance (ASPE) claims the British travel insurance firms sell policies to holidaymakers which only provide emergency medical cover in public hospitals, which is already provided for free to British holidaymakers with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
The ASPE claims these insurance companies require policyholders to carry an EHIC as a condition of their insurance.
It says that as the policies are 'opaque' about the medical cover provided by the insurance, many holidaymakers go to private hospitals in Spain, believing their insurer will pay for their treatment.
In some cases they are transferred to public hospitals, sometimes at risk to their health, in others they are treated by the private hospital, which cannot recover the cost either from the insurer or the British or Spanish governments.
Those insurance companies the ASPE accuses of 'possible systematic fraud' are Travelinsurance4medical.co.uk, Insurefor.com, Ok To Travel, Insure Pink, Staysure, Suretravel Citybond, Covered 2 Go, Good to Go, All Clear Traveler, Alpha Travel, ERV Medi-Care, Leisurecare Multi-traveller X5, World First Traveller and Get Going Travel Insurance.
However, despite lodging formal complaints with both the British and Spanish government and the European Commission since 2016, the ASPE, which represents 80% of Spain's private hospitals, says they have taken no action.
"This situation places the health of British travellers at serious risk. The insurer forces the private hospital to refer them to a public hospital as soon as possible, sometimes even in cases where a transfer compromises the patient's health," said ASPE.
"These practices mean high costs both for the Spanish national health system, which must handle a greater volume of patients, including those who, in theory, have paid for private care, and for the NHS which must cover the cost of treatment at Spanish public healthcare facilities."
The ASPE reported the alleged irregularities to the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK, but it claims it has not taken any action. A spokesman for the FCA said: "We are aware of allegations but we cannot comment further."
The ASPE said it now intends to demand precautionary measures from the British authorities against the insurance firms, and it says it will continue to report their behaviour to the Spanish and European agencies. It has also launched a website, safetraveltospain.com to explain to holidaymakers the cover they need.