British Pensioners who retired to EU countries including France, Italy and Spain will not have access to healthcare coverage post 29 March in case Britain Exits without a deal, according to government. This will be huge setback for the 190,000 British citizens who are currently settled in places such as Provence in France, Spanish Costas and Italy’s Tuscany.
Post -29 March 2019, the Brexit Date, pensioners won’t be able to get their treatment costs covered by the NHS, which could increase burden on the NHS if the pensioners are left with no choice but to return to UK for treatment. The government which under the current arrangement pays to the respective governments for healthcare coverage of citizens had earlier expressed that it’s cheaper to pay France and Spain for healthcare than making British Nationals to fly to UK for treatment.
The British Nationals who availed the National Insurance System for some qualifying number of years benefited from the S1 reciprocal healthcare rules in case they retire to EEA/EU countries or Switzerland. The S1 certificate is available to all state pensioners as well as some workers sent by their employers overseas on a temporary basis. The S1 certificate helped the pensioner and their relatives to avail healthcare in the respective country.
The no-deal technical notice issued by the UK government states that the British Nationals holding the S1 certificate will only be to access healthcare services up to 29 March 2019, after that the certificate would be invalid which depends on the Member State’s decision. The technical notice which garnered little attention in the media has shocked pensioners living abroad.
Chair of campaign for Bremain in Spain, Sue Wilson said that the post-Brexit change in their healthcare is devastating and that they are all very scared due to the loss of healthcare coverage. She added that the government must take immediate actions to protect their rights. Other campaign groups for Britain in Europe also have warned of devastating effect of Brexit on people’s healthcare needs. One campaigner Jeremy Morgan said that the government should try imagining the impact of loss of healthcare for a 75 year old cancer patient receiving treatment on 30th March.
The technical notice advises people to take private healthcare in the country where they reside which came as a shock to many people who settled abroad just to make ends meet. The Department of Health of UK stated that they’re working closely with French and Spanish governments to ensure the access to healthcare to patients whatever the outcome.
There are 44,000 British pensioners in Ireland, 70,000 in Spain, 12,000 in Cyprus and 43,000 in France. The UK government paid around 500 million pounds for healthcare which is 2300 pounds per pensioner. The cost of payments of healthcare abroad is significantly lower than the cost in UK.