UK EU pensioners will lose free healthcare under no-deal Brexit | Brexit

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British nationals who have retired in EU countries, including Spain and France, will no longer have their healthcare covered by the NHS if there is no Brexit deal, said the government.

Confirmation will be a blow to around 190,000 retired British citizens in the EU in places such as Spain’s Costas, Provence in France and Tuscany in Italy.

It could also increase the burden on the NHS if pensioners believe they have no choice but to return to the UK for treatment. The government has previously admitted it is cheaper to pay Spain and France to look after British nationals than to send them home.

Currently, pensioners can get treatment reimbursed by the NHS under a set of EU-wide reciprocal agreements.

“This is another example of how those who advocate no deal are playing with the lives of British citizens living in other EU countries,” said immigration lawyer Colin Yeo. and freedom of movement activist. “A lot of these politicians and pundits probably didn’t bother to find out how their policies would actually affect these people.”

Retirees who have contributed to national insurance for the qualifying years benefit from the “S1” healthcare reciprocity rules if they are retiring in EU/EEA countries or Switzerland.

An S1 certificate is available for anyone receiving a state pension and for some workers sent abroad temporarily by their UK employers.

In a low-profile no-deal technical advice published this week, the UK government said: “An S1 certificate helps you and your dependents access healthcare in the EU/EEA country where you live. . If you have an S1 certificate, it will be valid until March 29, 2019. After this date, the certificate may no longer be valid, depending on the decisions of the Member States.

Sue Wilson, who chairs campaign group Bremain in Spain, said the change could be devastating. “From the beginning, we have been told that our health care is protected. It’s a big shock for everyone and our members are really, really scared,” she said.

She called on the government to agree to protect their rights. “We have heard of EU citizens in Britain being granted settlement status. Well, we have an unstable status,” she said.

The government’s ‘Healthcare Abroad’ hotline has updated its recorded messages to include a do not agree warning, advising those considering moving to another EEA country or Switzerland that their S1 application will only be considered if they apply “within the next four weeks”.

The UK Europe campaign group also said the loss could have a devastating effect on people with ongoing healthcare needs. “Just think of the impact of this on a 75-year-old man in the midst of life-saving cancer treatment on March 30,” said Jeremy Morgan, the group’s health issues spokesman.

The Spanish and British governments have said they are confident a bilateral deal will be in place despite the no-deal notice.

The health ministry said it was “working closely with countries, including Spain and France, to ensure that patients can continue to access healthcare, regardless of the outcome”.

The Spanish government’s Brexit advice website outlines ‘contingency measures’ that would ‘ensure the provision of healthcare to British citizens in Spain’ in the event of a no-deal.

The technical advice advises retirees to investigate taking private healthcare in the country they currently reside in, which is likely to shock some, especially on Spain’s Costa del Sol, where many have taken their retirement to make ends meet. .

The government has suggested worried pensioners seek out the public healthcare system in the country where they currently live and find out if they are eligible for treatment. There are 70,000 British pensioners in Spain, 44,000 in Ireland, 43,000 in France and 12,000 in Cyprus.

A senior Department of Health official told a select committee in 2017 that Spain charged an average of €3,500 per pensioner enrolled in S1, Ireland charged an average of €7,500 and the UK around €5,000 .

In total, the government paid around £500million – or £2,300 per pensioner – which it said was significantly lower than the cost of treating pensioners in the UK.

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