The UK government has said it will offer a – limited and temporary – replacement to the EU’s Ehic travellers’ health card in the event of no-deal.
In answer to a parliamentary question, a junior Health Minister, Edward Argar, said if there is no future relationship Brexit deal, the government will offer a replacement for one year, from January 1 to December 31, 2021.
This scheme would mean the government would pay for certain treatments that UK residents incur during travel in the EU in 2021.
However Mr Argar said this will only apply to “individuals who are certain to require treatment while abroad, such as regular dialysis, oxygen therapy or certain types of chemotherapy”.
In other words, it is not guaranteed to cover unexpected healthcare needs that arise during a holiday in France or a stay at a French second home.
The government says it is making this offer because it “recognises that these ongoing, routine treatment costs can be expensive and make travelling abroad extremely challenging for many people”.
In order to benefit, the minister said people should check their eligibility with their NHS doctor in the UK before travelling.
In the event of no-deal, or a deal which does not cover travel healthcare, British residents who visit France in future will be advised to take out full healthcare insurance to cover their stay.
In theory, this is one of the items that can be checked at the border for non-EU citizens entering France, however Americans in France told Connexion journalists that their visitors are not asked for this.
Not having any cover, however, means a visitor would be taking a risk in the event of any costly care being needed in France.
Note that the UK will still be issuing Ehics to British pensioners or other S1 form holders, living in France before December 31, 2021 and benefiting from the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement deal. However these will be for use when travelling outside France in the EU.
EU citizens living abroad in the UK by December 31, 2020 also qualify, under the WA deal deal, for UK Ehic cards which they could use in EU countries such as France.
In the no-deal scenario, it is possible that some form of traveller healthcare cover could be negotiated in a future bilateral France-UK deal on social security, however this is uncertain.