This article is for Britons living in Europe who are worried about the financial and healthcare-related impacts of Britain leaving the EU.
We’ve compiled advice on a country by country basis for travellers to countries in the European Union.
Read our advice for British Holidaymakers who may need medical attention while travelling to European countries after 31st October 2019 by visiting this link.
Once Brexit has been and gone, will you as a UK national still get free healthcare in Europe or will you need find yourself an expat health insurance policy to make sure you’ve got access to healthcare if you’re living abroad?
There are approximately 1.3 million UK citizens living, retired or working in the 27 EU countries, although precise estimates vary.
What is for certain is that as citizens of the EU, those people have access to healthcare at the time of need without being required to pay any fees themselves, thanks to the European EHIC system.
After Brexit, though, it’s likely this system will no longer exist and individuals both travelling abroad on holiday or living and working in the EU should seek alternative insurance. Any replacement systems are yet to be confirmed so it’s very difficult to know what, if anything, you should do.
The current advice from the UK government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommends holiday makers travelling out of the UK take out a travel insurance or health insurance policy to cover any possible medical requirements during their trip.
If you’re travelling with any pre-existing health conditions this is especially important advice.
There is also further guidance for UK nationals living or working in the EU, and it’s this advice that really is critical. Changes to the UK’s membership in the EU could mean expats abroad may find living abroad no longer financially sustainable.
The latest advice encourages people to complete the registration to access healthcare in whichever EU country they currently reside in as soon as possible, especially as some residents may need to be classed as a “long term” resident to access free healthcare services.
Read our country by country guide to healthcare in the EU after Brexit here.
If you’re currently applying for residency in a host country the advice tends to suggest you should take out separate a separate health insurance policy to make sure you’ve got cover.
For people who hold the S1 certificate, there is little legislation to keep the S1 valid after the 31st October 2019. Check what the latest healthcare arrangements are between the UK and the country you live in, being sure to talk to your employer if you have any concerns.
One issue that is relevant in all EU countries (except Ireland) is what happens to UK pensioners who have retired to an EU country, who currently benefit from the S1 certificate. This means they are currently entitled to the same healthcare as nationals of the countries in which they live.
If there is no deal on October 31st 2019, then this will cease to apply.
The UK government’s Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill is supposed to encourage healthcare arrangements to continue for UK expats in the case of a no-deal Brexit, but that would need the agreement of each country’s government. No EU government has individually agreed to this arrangement, nor can they. The bill would have to be ratified by the EU, which of course is currently tied up with preparing for a no-deal outcome.
We’ll come on to recommendations for health care insurance providers that can provide health cover for British expats living in the EU later in the article.
France and Spain have the highest populations of British immigrants living in the EU. Either retired or working, both countries have differing arrangements for each group, if any.
Britons living in France
If you have been living in France for more than three months and are not working or receiving a pension, then as an EU citizen you can apply to be covered by the French healthcare system, PUMA, which means you could currently get the same healthcare as French citizens.
In the event of a no-deal, however, you would need to apply for residency to be covered by PUMA. There will be a cost involved but it is not currently known.
If you are employed in France, your employer should have registered you to pay social security, which means you are eligible by default for state healthcare. If you’re self-employed you’ll need to do this yourself.
If you are a UK pensioners living in France, and there is a no-deal scenario then there will be a two-year period from the date the UK leaves during which you will continue to receive French state healthcare.
After this 2 year period, it’s unclear what will happen next. You may be given eligibility for PUMA, but be required to pay an annual fee of 8% of your annual income above a certain level – last year it was 9,933 euros (£8,725). This cost is prohibitively expensive for most pensioners and creates a difficult decision between paying for national healthcare, getting insurance for private healthcare or, having to return home to the UK.
Britons living in Spain
There are approximately 500,000 British people living in Spain, the highest number in any EU country. It’s a popular retirement destination and has been for many decades. Entire towns and local economies there are dependent on a thriving, British population.
A no-deal Brexit would have serious consequences for and mean very different things for different groups of UK citizens living there.
If you live and work in Spain and in doing so, pay social security contributions to Spain, you will still have access to state-funded healthcare.
If you are over 60 and at pension age you may turn out to be eligible under Spain’s universal healthcare law, but at the moment nothing is decided. It is, therefore a risky situation not to be insured after October 31st 2019.
Until an agreement is put in place, get healthcare insurance or you’re at risk.
Until any agreements are reached between the UK and individual EU member states through the main body of the EU, the government advises UK citizens to make sure they have appropriate individual healthcare arrangements in place should they fall ill while living in the European Union.
We’ve compiled a list of highly-rated private health insurance providers for expat Britons living, working or retiring in the European Union. Make sure the policies cover any pre-existing medical conditions by being totally transparent about your medical history when getting a quote. As with any recommendation always make sure the policies are right for you.
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