Thousands of people demonstrated across Spain on Saturday against spending cuts that leave large numbers of illegal immigrants without free access to health care.
Hundreds blocked a ring road in Madrid to oppose new regulations that mean undocumented immigrants are to lose the national health cards that had entitled them to free treatment.
The decision contradicts a pillar of Spain's welfare state - free health care for anyone in need.
The government expects the measure will save €1.5 billion (£1.2bn) a year and puts the number of people affected at 150,000. Other estimates say the real figure could reach 900,000.
The measure allows only a few exceptions, including care during pregnancy, childbirth or post-birth emergencies.
And "foreigners under the age of 18 will continue to receive health care under the same conditions as Spanish nationals," the Health Ministry claimed.
Ruling Popular Party (PP) healthcare spokesman Manuel Cervera said illegal immigrants could still have access to treatment but will have to pay for it.
Seven of Spain's 17 regional health authorities have said they will not implement the measure and many doctors and nurses have vowed to continue treating those affected by the change for free.
Rights groups Medecins du Monde and Amnesty International have denounced the new measure as a violation of basic rights.
They warned that the cuts "could cost lives because they will leave thousands of people without access to the health system."
If immigrants lack insurance, they will be billed for treatment once they get a job, the PP spokesman said.
But the protesters were not reassured by the party's claims. Doctors and nurses were among those marching in Madrid along with some of those hit by the change.
Also on Saturday, the government jacked up the country's VAT rate from 18 per cent to 21 per cent.
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