British expats, students and travellers to Europe will have their health care safeguarded with a special agreement after Brexit.
Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price introduced a surprise bill to Parliament that quells the fears of 190,000 expat state pensioners living in the European Union.
The bill also protects the right to medical care of millions of business people, students and tourists who visit Europe from Britain each year.
The Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill will establish a legal foundation for the government to fund healthcare in Europe for British citizens after the Brexit transition ends in December 2020.
The government has limited powers to fund healthcare outside the UK and current arrangements with the EU will end with Brexit. The bill is intended to maintain the agreement and to give the Health Secretary power to fund medical care overseas.
EHIC alive and well
The bill will set up a reciprocal agreement with each EU member to include benefits like:
- reducing the cost of insurance
- making travel more viable for older people and high-risk groups
- providing a boost to the travel economy
Part of the agreement will be to keep the current European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) system alive and well.
EHIC gives UK nationals access to free healthcare in the EU and pays for 250,000 medical treatments each year.
For 190,000 expat state pensioners living in the EU and those intending to retire to the EU, it will help by safeguarding reciprocal healthcare if there is no EU deal.
Travel with confidence
“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 National Health Service,” said health under-secretary Lord James O’Shaughnessy.
“This bill will allow us to implement new health care arrangements with other countries – in the EU and elsewhere – so that UK citizens can travel with confidence.”
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.