British Health Service to Charge Non-Europeans for Hospital Costs

by Ray Clancy on May 6, 2015

The UK government has decided that the healthcare system is over generous to those who live outside the country but seek medical help and will seek payment for some costs.

It means that people from outside the European Economic Area (EAA), including British expats, will have to pay for hospital treatment if they do not have health insurance. Emergency treatment and access to a GP will still be free.

healthcareEUA department of health spokesman said that patients should expect to be asked questions about their residence status in the UK.

‘As is the case already, most people who live or work in another EEA country or Switzerland will continue to get free NHS care using an Ehic issued by the country they live in. This means the NHS can reclaim health care costs from the original country of residence,’ the spokesman explained.

‘UK state pensioners who live elsewhere in the EEA will now have the same rights to NHS care as people who live in England. This applies to all pensioners who receive a UK state retirement pension and are registered for health care in Europe with an S1 form,’ the spokesman added.

‘People who live elsewhere in the EEA or Switzerland who are not working and are under the UK retirement age should either use their Ehic, if they’re entitled to one, or make sure they have health insurance if they need NHS care when visiting England. Otherwise they will have to pay for their care,’ he continued.

‘This includes former UK residents, and ensures that people who already live and work in the UK do not end up paying through their taxes for visitors who are not economically active,’ he concluded.

Long standing European arrangements state that EU citizens should seek healthcare in the country they live in, regardless of their citizenship. They can seek healthcare in other EU countries, but this must generally be authorised and billed back to their country of residence.

British expats often return home for medical treatment for conditions that need hospitalisation but now they will need to have insurance or face a hefty bill and pay upfront for medical care.

The Royal Berkshire NHS Trust, for example, says on its website that patients who leave a debt could find their details registered with the UK Border Agency, meaning they could be stopped next time they try to enter or leave the country.

Some people are exempt from the charges such as diplomats, members of the Armed Forces and war pensioners. Former UK residents who return home permanently will be eligible for free NHS care immediately.


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