Brit expats may get free NHS treatment based on NI contributions

Published:  10 Oct at 6 PM
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The prejudicial rules that British nationals living overseas can only get treatment on the NHS if a medical emergency occurs during a visit home may soon be overturned.

The present ruling states that expat Britons living abroad for more than three months in any one year are not entitled to free NHS healthcare unless in an emergency situation such as an accident, heart attack or stroke. However, the results of a recent government consultation suggest that access to free NHS healthcare overall may be awarded to expats who have made at least seven years’ National Insurance contributions.

The ordinarily resident qualification on which the present rules are based has caused major resentment amongst expat communities across the world, as temporary or permanent immigrants from overseas are entitled to free NHS treatment as soon as they arrive. The vast majority of expats living abroad have been in full employment during their time in their home country, and will have paid regular National Insurance contributions all their working lives.

If a decision is made to base free heathcare eligibility on NI payments, it could encourage more older Britons to move abroad, thus saving money for the cash-strapped NHS as minor ailments could be dealt with by clinics in the host country. Expats living in EU member states are supposedly entitled to free healthcare, but several EU countries including Spain are refusing to honour the reciprocal arrangements set in EU law.

Those who have been resident in the UK for at least 10 continuous years are entitled to a minimum standard of cover, even if they are permanent residents overseas. The government consultation paper is intended to address the problem of health tourists who arrive in the UK, receive free treatment and return to their home countries.
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Comments » There are 2 comments

Roy Mortimer wrote 6 years ago:

I have been a resident in Thailand 18 years. My pension increases have been frozen, and apparently not entitled to NHS! I have been working UK all my life until the age of 54. Never out of work,never claimed benifit.Payed my tax, and NHS contributions 50 years. If NHS fraudulently stop my "free" treatment, Can I have my contribution payments back? It is shameful that This ruling is implemented to born and bred Briton.

Carol Edwards wrote 6 years ago:

has there been any movement on this - I have heard nothing more. Or has it died on the grapevine?

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