Reader question: I moved from the UK to France and worked as a self-employed farmer before retiring early.
Can I claim an UK S1 form and use it to gain access to French healthcare cover on reaching UK retirement age and thus move from cover by Mutualité Sociale Agricole (MSA) to cover by the UK?
Having your healthcare covered by another EU/ EE state or Switzerland / the UK allows reduced French social charge rates on investment and property income.
A social charge exemption also exists on foreign pension income for residents of France who are not a burden to the French health system as is the case with S1 holders.
The reader says he is willing not to claim his small French pension, if necessary.
It should, first, be noted that unless you are already claiming a French pension (or working in another field), former self-employed workers are now covered via the ‘Puma’ scheme, which gives healthcare by right of residency.
Cleiss, official French-based experts on coordination of social security systems under the responsibility of the social security and budget ministries, said that renouncing a French pension to be covered via an S1 depends on whether the French pension scheme in question allows people to do this.
It would also depend, Cleiss said, on whether the UK is prepared to issue S1s to people who have renounced their right to a French pension.
With regard to the first point, MSA – as well as Cnav (the national body in charge of state pensions for most people who have worked in the private sector) – said, if you wish, you can effectively ‘renounce’ your pension by not claiming it.
MSA said you could also explicitly put in writing that you are renouncing it, if you wish.
MSA said that if you have claimed the pension, you can renounce it in writing within two-months of notification that you will receive a pension but generally you cannot do it after that.
Cnav said you could ask for annulment in the two-month period by writing to the Commission de recours amiable of your pension body and you would have to pay back any money already received.
It said you can also write at a later date to ‘renounce’ it and, if you do, you cannot later change your mind, and your payments will stop.
We asked the UK’s Department for Health if it is possible for someone who gives up the right to a French pension, or does not claim it, to ask for an S1 for French healthcare. We were directed to a website that states if you receive pensions from both the country where you live and the UK, you cannot get an S1 as the country where you live is responsible for your healthcare.
In our reader’s case it appears therefore he could claim an S1 but the issue is more whether he is entitled to later give up a French pension to remain covered by it.
We asked for confirmation that the UK allows someone who gives up a French pension right to claim an S1 or to remain covered under one. Official UK sources confirmed that this is a matter for France but people should take advice before potentially giving up an entitlement permanently.
In summary, people in France are entitled to have, and use, a UK S1 if they are not receiving a French state pension or similar eligible benefits entitling them to care via France.
However, there can be benefits of healthcare via France, including the right to a French Ehic, which can be used for free care on visits to the UK. Another is the right to the CSS healthcare top-up scheme for those on low incomes.
The Connexion also approached officials at the direction de la sécurité sociale, the French government department in charge of social security, about this issue, but it did not respond to our requests.