UK offers to pay for pensioners' healthcare in EU

A bill has today been introduced by the UK government aimed at giving it the power to continue funding the healthcare of British pensioners in the EU including in a no-deal scenario.

The government says the bill “seeks to safeguard healthcare for 190,000 expats and 50 million people who travel abroad every year, through agreements with the EU or member states”.

This comes shortly after France said in a draft law that it would consider making arrangements for British pensioners to pay for their healthcare if after a no-deal Brexit Britain ceased to pay for it as it currently does under reciprocal EU social security rules.

The Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill also seeks to safeguard the right for Britons travelling in the EU on holiday to have funded healthcare in EU countries, as now, by seeking deals.

The information put out by the government today shows the bill is aimed at both ‘deal’ and no-deal scenarios.

If there is a deal as negotiated so far such arrangements would have to be put in place as part of it for existing expatriates, though the bill goes further by referring to maintaing the arrangements for Britons moving abroad after Brexit as well. However older Britons living abroad in France and other EU countries had been in limbo as to whether or not their healthcare funding would continue if there was no deal.

The UK government confirms however that: “For the 190,000 expat state pensioners who have chosen to live in the EU and those intending to retire to the EU, [the bill] will help by safeguarding reciprocal healthcare if there is no EU deal.”

This would also require the whole EU or individual EU countries to agree on arrangements with the UK, however the bill shows a will on the UK side to engage with the issue. So far the French had not said if UK state pensioners would continue to have healthcare rights after Brexit and the national body in charge of French state healthcare cover has recently been working on the assumption that the rights expire after March 29, 2019 due to the uncertainty surrounding the negotiations.

This is the first explicit move the UK government has made to safeguard the rights of its citizens in the EU27 countries, several of which depend on the UK’s support, as in this case.

Other areas that remain uncertain include the annual uprating of British state pensions in the EU and the ability to claim certain ‘exported’ benefits, notably for disability.

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