The British government has introduced a bill aimed at continuing the funding of EU-based Brit expat pensioners’ healthcare in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The government says the bill “seeks to safeguard healthcare for 190,000 expats and 50 million people who travel abroad every year, through agreements with the EU or member states”.
It will establish the basis for a new arrangement allowing the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme to continue after 2020, subject to an agreement with the EU. EHIC grants UK nationals access to free healthcare abroad, and pays for 250,000 medical treatments each year.
For the 190,000 state pensioners who have chosen to live in the EU and those intending to retire to the EU, it will help by safeguarding reciprocal healthcare if there is no EU deal.
Lord O’Shaughnessy, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, said: “Whether on holiday, working or retiring abroad, British people want to know they can access the same high quality healthcare that they enjoy in the NHS.
“This Bill will allow us to implement new healthcare arrangements with other countries – in the EU and elsewhere – so that UK citizens can travel with confidence.”
This comes shortly after France said in a draft law that it would consider making arrangements for British pensioners to pay for their healthcare if after a no-deal Brexit Britain ceased to pay for it as it currently does under reciprocal EU social security rules.
The Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill also seeks to safeguard the right for Britons travelling in the EU on holiday to have funded healthcare in EU countries, as now, by seeking deals.
The information put out by the government shows the bill is aimed at both ‘deal’ and no-deal scenarios.
This is the first explicit move the UK government has made to safeguard the rights of its citizens in the EU27 countries, several of which depend on the UK’s support, as in this case.
The agreement is subject to agreement with the EU as part of the ongoing Brexit negotiations.
Britain also has several reciprocal healthcare agreements with non-EU countries, such as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Australia and New Zealand.
The agreement will not take the place of travel or medical care insurance.