The recent, unexpected vote by the UK to leave the European Union is understood to have captured the attention of international private medical insurers, who could stand to benefit from changes in the relationship Britain currently has with the EU.
In particular, a rise in demand for short-term and travel insurance is expected imminently, industry sources say, while sales of longer term and more comprehensive health insurance packages could receive a boost eventually, if British staff are expected to relocate to the EU for business reasons, following last week’s historic decision.
Currently, British citizens enjoy a reciprocal healthcare arrangement that enables them to receive state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in an European Economic Area (EEA) country, as well as Switzerland, upon presentation of a so-called European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The arrangement is extended to member state citizens who become resident in another member country, for example, British citizens who retire to Spain.
Joe Thomas, business development director for April International (UK), says the full picture will not develop for a few months at least.
“The UK Brexit vote will raise a number of questions about health insurance for UK nationals in Europe, both working and retired, over the coming months, but it is too early to say yet what the outcome might be,” says Thomas, whose company is the UK-based international arm of the French April Group insurance company. The UK arm used to be known as MediCare International.
The company provides international health insurance products to both individuals and companies, as well as to students.
“If the EHIC regime is dismantled, for example, that would suggest a significant increase in demand for both short term and travel insurance cover, as those who historically have relied upon EHIC for emergency protection would need to look elsewhere.
“Equally, if larger UK based companies do start to move sections of their workforce into Europe, that too would imply increased demand for longer term, more comprehensive health insurance packages more usually associated with staff or group schemes,” he says.
One of the largest international health insurance companies is UK-based Bupa. For now, a spokesperson said, the company isn’t making any comments on the referendum or its possible effects on Bupa’s business in Europe or the UK.