Spanish government insists UK pays expats post-Brexit medical bills

Published:  4 Oct at 6 PM
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In its first post-Brexit announcement concerning pensioners living in Spain, the country’s foreign minister told listeners at an Alicante event that the UK should pay its’ expats’ medical bills.

Spanish foreign minister Jose Manual Garcia-Margallo is quoted as saying one of the country’s post-Brexit goals is to force Britain to pay the medical bills of UK pensioners domiciled in Spain. He insisted the two countries need to agree that expat retirees are able to access local heathcare services, but the cost must be covered by the British government.

British citizens resident in Spain are at present covered by the European Health Insurance Card, which gives access to free medical treatment. However, the continuation of the benefit is at risk once the UK/EU divorce is final. The compromise suggested by Garcia-Margallo would mean heathcare delivered at source is still free for expat pensioners, but the British government must agree to cover all expenses.

Following Theresa May’s Conservative Conference statement, a hard Brexit may be on the cards due to her rejection of any compromise in allowing freedom of movement. Theoretically, her stance would seem to negate the possibility of any free heathcare in Spain, leaving elderly expats no alternative but to either finance heathcare themselves or return to the UK permanently.

Alicante is a tourism and expat-heavy region, home to 86,000 Britons, many of whom are retirees living on the less-than-generous UK state pension. Almost half the total number of residents in some districts are refugees from the UK’s cold winters and overpriced utilities. Whilst the UK’s Department of Health admits heathcare in EU member states is a problem, to date it’s made no attempt to resolve the difficulties Brexit will cause, simply stating that retired UK expats may no longer have heathcare guaranteed by the government.
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