UK to pay six months of OAP healthcare in no-deal

generic image of unidentifiable doctor with a stethoscope

British state pensioners living abroad in the EU who fall sick after a no-deal Brexit will have their healthcare paid for by the UK as a last resort for only up to six months, the UK has announced. Campaigners have called it “a massive let-down”.

The statement – which comes along with clarifications relating to Ehics used in France by holidaymakers, second home owners and newcomers to France – adds a new layer of complexity to an already complicated situation when it comes to OAPs’ healthcare after a no-deal. British Ehics are also currently used by expatriate UK state pensioners on trips to other EU countries apart from the UK.

Campaigners from British in Europe (BiE) said it shows once again that the citizens' rights part of the Brexit deal should be ring-fenced, safeguarding the existing healthcare rights for life. 

In a no-deal the current EU S1 health form system, whereby expatriate state pensioners have their healthcare in the EU paid for by the country that pays their pension, would end for holders of British S1s. This would leave people in different situations depending on national healthcare systems and no-deal laws in the countries where they live.

The UK has previously said it would pay for up to one year of any healthcare treatment that someone is undergoing on Brexit day or has scheduled at that time. 

In its no-deal laws France promised that British state pensioners would stay in the French system as now for two years after a no-deal, pending discussions with the UK on a possible deal covering their care long-term. However it did not clarify if it would pay for them if necessary.

It is also possible that if all else fails UK pensioners would qualify for state healthcare under France’s Puma scheme, on the basis of residency, though France has not explicitly agreed this would be the case (this is also expected to mean loss of certain social charge exemptions and would involve an annual fee for some of those with higher incomes).

Those in the strongest position with regard to this fallback right would be people who have obtained a permanent EU carte de séjour due to over five years of continuous, legal residency in France, and who could immediately swap for a long-term residency card as non-EU citizens after a no-deal.

In its latest updates the UK advises Britons to consider registering with the state system where they live if possible, as well as considering taking out a comprehensive private policy in the meantime or if this is not possible.

However failing this and if healthcare needs arise during the six months after Brexit that they are asked to pay for, the UK says it will pay for this. 

Details of what to do can be found at this link. 

As for Ehics, which are also an EU scheme and would stop after a no-deal, the UK says it will pay for any treatment during a trip that started before Brexit, or treatment someone underwent before Brexit. More on the arrangements can be found here.

All these groups will in future need to take out private health insurance for trips (France will not pay for them and the UK currently pays for necessary healthcare for its travellers in the EU - while it is an EU member - or wholly or partly for such care in certain other countries with which it has bilateral deals; no such deal would be in place with France in a no-deal). 

It is possible, but not guaranteed, that the S1 pensioners’ healthcare would be paid for for life by the UK as part of a bilateral deal with France to be negotiated after a no-deal Brexit, however this is hypothetical.

The UK has also expressed interest in continuing to be part of the Ehic system, however at present this is only used by EU countries and those with a very close tie to the EU (EEA and Switzerland). A comparable alternative (but also hypothetical at present) would be a bilateral social security deal including healthcare with mutual assistance for each other’s travellers.

A spokeswoman for British in Europe said: “This is yet more smoke and mirrors from the UK government and another massive let-down for UK pensioners in the EU 27.

“Having paid UK taxes and contributions all their working lives, when they moved to their host country, they had the right and expectation to UK government funded medical treatment for life. This was a key factor in the decision of many when moving.

“Now the only guarantee they have is for six more months, or up to a year if they have already started treatment. Just think what that means to someone who already needs life-long treatment, or a pensioner who gets a cancer diagnosis a month after Brexit.”

The BiE spokeswoman said the UK government should commit to funding the healthcare of the S1 pensioners indefinitely.

Also affected by the ending of S1s would be those such as early-retirees who have moved over with a comprehensive private insurance policy in expectation of obtaining an S1 one when claiming a state pension in a few years’ time.

Both this group and those who are already UK state pensioners are guaranteed to have their healthcare covered for the entirety of their retirement by the UK in the case of the Brexit deal being signed.

The co-founder of new campaign and support organisation France Rights, Kalba Meadows, said: “Many pensioners are already living on next to nothing – just a state pension and sometimes not even a full one.

“There is no room in their budgets for added healthcare costs and combined with no promise of state pension uprating beyond three years, people are genuinely frightened for their survival.”

British in Europe adds that “moving back to the UK” is often proposed as a fallback for pensioners, however “many UK retirees no longer have ties with, or family in, the UK, let alone property”.

Connexion first wrote about impacts of a Brexit in December 2011, when we said the likely practical effects would include Ehics and S1s being cancelled. 

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