UK to cover healthcare costs for British nationals in the EU

People already living in the EU who have their healthcare funded by the UK, will have their healthcare costs covered for six months should the UK leave the EU without a deal.

The UK Government has proposed to each EU member state that, if it leaves without a deal, existing healthcare arrangements continue until 31st December 2020 in the same way that they do now.

Discussions are ongoing but if arrangements with all member states have not been finalised by 31st October, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed the government will provide support to around 180,000 UK nationals living in the EU who currently have their healthcare costs paid for by the UK for a six-month period following exit day. This includes pensioners, students, those on disability benefits and UK workers temporarily posted in the EU.

The government has also committed to covering the costs of UK nationals in the EU who are in the middle of treatment when it leaves the EU, for up to a year.

The government will also provide cover during the time it takes to be registered with a local healthcare scheme. This is to ensure people are not exposed to gaps in healthcare coverage and potentially high costs while they register for healthcare locally.

To be eligible for this support, people must apply within local timeframes or no later than six months after the UK leaves the Union, whichever is the shortest.

The NHS is writing to 180,000 UK nationals living in the EU to make them aware of the information they need in the country they live in:

The value of the commitment will ultimately depend on which EU countries accept the UK government’s offer. Modelling has been performed to assess the likely costs of the policy if it is required. This suggests the maximum expenditure the government would expect to make under this commitment if no further bilateral agreements are finalised may be in the region of £50 million in 2019 to 2020 and £100 million in 2020 to 2021 but could be significantly lower.

In addition to this, the government has committed to:

– Cover the healthcare costs for students who began their courses in the EU ahead of 31st October for the duration of their course;

– Cover the healthcare costs of UK visitors to the EU who commenced their trip before the UK left the EU until they return to the UK; and

– Ensure that people currently insured by the UK living in the EU can return to use the NHS temporarily in England, Wales and Scotland free of charge.

British citizens living in Ireland will be able to access healthcare in Ireland in the same way as before Brexit.

The UK and Spain have each taken steps to ensure that people living in each country can continue to access healthcare as they do now until at least 31st December 2020.

“Protecting the healthcare rights of UK nationals is a priority of this government,” said Hancock. “While the government continues to work towards a good deal, I am today announcing that pensioners, students and UK workers living in the EU will have their healthcare costs covered for 6 months after 31 October, whatever the circumstances of Brexit.

All UK nationals in the EU should act now and take the simple steps needed to secure their access to healthcare.”

Article published 24th September 2019