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BREXIT

No-deal Brexit: UK vows to cover health costs of retired Britons for one year

The British government has moved to try to reassure the tens of thousands of retired Britons across the EU by agreeing to cover the costs of their healthcare in the event of a no-deal Brexit for 12 months. However much appears still to be up in the air.

No-deal Brexit: UK vows to cover health costs of retired Britons for one year
Photo: Depositphotos

The UK's Health Minister Stephen Hammond released a written statement on Tuesday saying that in the event of a no-deal Brexit the government would cover the health costs of pensioners throughout the EU for up to 12 months.

His announcement will offer some relief to the 180,000 retired Britons who live around the EU and who rely on the NHS to cover their healthcare via reciprocal agreements between EU states.

Those reciprocal agreements would no longer apply for UK nationals if Britain left the EU without a deal on March 29th or at a later date.

The UK has suggested to EU Member states that the current reciprocal arrangements continue up until December 2020 in the event of a no-deal to “minimise disruption.”

“This would mean that we will continue to pay for healthcare costs for current or former UK residents for whom the UK has responsibility who are living or working in or visiting the EU and EFTA states, where individuals are not covered by the EFTA Citizens’ Rights Agreements,” said Hammond.

But that proposal needs agreement from EU states like France where around 40 000 British pensioners live and Spain, which is home to 70,000 retired Brits.

However if those agreements are not made the UK will cover the health costs for a period of 12 months for those who relied on NHS cover via the S1 reciprocal scheme.

Hammond said: “The UK Government has committed to fund healthcare for UK nationals (and others for whom the UK is responsible) who have applied for, or are undergoing, treatments in the EU prior to and on exit day, for up to one year, to protect the most vulnerable. 

But Hammond said it would rely on EU member states agreeing to first treat patients and then be reimbursed by the UK.

“The Statutory Instruments introduced on 11 February would also enable some UK residents to recover costs if they are charged.”

“For UK nationals who are visitors, we will refund costs directly. For UK nationals who are resident in another Member State, this commitment requires us to reach an arrangement with individual EU Member States. We are hopeful that they will remain willing to treat patients and accept reimbursement and are in discussions to seek such an agreement.”

The announcement will be welcomed by the tens of thousands of British pensioners in countries like France and Spain who faced uncertainty over whether their health treatment would be covered after Brexit.

Hammond also announced that anyone who is forced to return home to the UK for health reasons will have access to the NHS.

“Should UK nationals face changes in how they can access healthcare, they may use NHS services if they return to live in the UK,” he said.

“As is currently the case, UK nationals living in the EU will have an entitlement to NHS services as soon as they take up ordinary residence in England.

“A British citizen who moves to the UK can be considered ordinarily resident upon arrival if it is clear that they are here to reside on a properly settled basis for the time being. British citizens who return to live in the UK partway through their treatment will be able to access NHS services.”

In his statement the health minister also announced other measures that may offer reassurance to retired Britons in the EU.

  • Those who have their healthcare funded by the UK under current EU arrangements and are resident in EU Member States on exit day can use NHS services in England without charge when on a temporary visit to England.
  • The Association of British insurers (ABI) has advised that travel insurance policies will cover emergency medical treatment costs as standard that could have been reclaimed through the EHIC, although some routine treatments would not be covered.

 

 

 

 

Member comments

  1. According to this then, if someone contracts a condition after the UK leaves without an agreement, say unfortunately cancer, as this is a new condition, it will not be covered by this arrangement. Sick, and possibly poor people will therefore need to go back to the UK for treatment. This is a cruel situation for people who have probably paid into the system in the UK for all their working lives will now be cast adrift by the present government. What a complete and utter heartless shambles.

  2. Beware of overseas insurance companies offering health insurance coverage for the following reasons:
    There are very few offering the cover required and most are based in Asia. Such cover is unlikely to be accepted by EU authorities as claims procedure and acceptance are doubtful and, of course, out of jurisdiction.
    The premiums necessary to cover a UK citizen in EU are beyond the pocket of most. Enquiries so far produce premiums ranging from £20/35,000 per person pa often with exclusion clauses depending on age, present health etc.

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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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