UK will pay for OAPs' healthcare for a year in no-deal

The UK government has today committed to continuing to pay for British state pensioners healthcare in EU countries for one year in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The pledge is aimed at avoiding the worst consequences should people’s healthcare rights suddenly otherwise cease due to the ending of the usual reciprocal EU rules for Britons abroad in the EU.

However wording in a statement from Health Minister Stephen Hammond today is minimalistic – it says the UK will fund the healthcare of those who have “applied for or are undergoing treatments in the EU prior to and on exit day, for up to one year”. It adds that in the case of Britons resident in other EU countries (as opposed to those only visiting) this will require agreements with the states they live in, however the UK is in discussions with the states over this and is “hopeful they will remain willing to treat patients and accept reimbursement”.

This comes on top of French no-deal legislation which said that British state pensioners in France would continue to have the same healthcare arrangements for two years in the event of no-deal, however the French law did not detail how this would be funded.

The problem arises because the S1 form scheme under which British pensioners in France have French healthcare reimbursement rights is an EU scheme simplifying free movement of EU citizens and is not normally available to non-EU citizens.

The UK also says that it has proposed to the other EU states – pending agreement with them – that existing reciprocal healthcare arrangements should generally be maintained in the case of no-deal until December 31, 2020, with a view to minimising disruption to UK nationals and the healthcare in the UK of EU nationals.

Should any UK nationals have to return to the UK due to healthcare difficulties, however, they will have immediate access to the NHS and not have to wait to prove they are ‘ordinarily resident’, the UK says.

The UK government says it is also willing to enter into new comprehensive bilateral deals with EU states giving reciprocal healthcare for expatriates and visitors either in the case of a deal or no-deal.

In the case of the deal – which British MPs have rejected – it was agreed that British pensioners’ healthcare rights would continue for life in the countries where they live.

The UK is also warning potential visitors to France and other EU countries that the Ehic scheme may not be operative after a no-deal Brexit and they may need to take out comprehensive travel insurance.

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