Expat Brits caught out by UK war on health tourism

Published:  12 Mar at 6 PM
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A major crackdown on so-called health tourism announced yesterday by the UK government is likely to severely affect British expats who need to return to the UK for urgent medical care.

Under the new rules, anyone who arrives in the UK for NHS treatment will be required to pay at a commercial rate yet to be decided. The ban, which will affect both asylum seekers and all visitors, is slated to come into force in April 2015.

According to health minister John Hutton, the NHS is losing a great deal of money treating health tourists in NHS hospitals, with the health service needing to be protected on behalf of British taxpayers. All patients will be asked for proof of residence in the UK, with showing utilities bills the favourite.

It follows that, no matter how much tax expats paid during their working lives in the UK, they will soon be expected to pay for any medical treatment they may require while visiting their home country. However, emergencies such as heart attacks, strokes and sudden illnesses will still be treated for free.

Those expected to be hardest hit are expats living in France, Spain, Italy, Greece and other EU member states. Current rules state that pensioners who wish to keep their NHS eligibility may only stay outside the UK for three months in every year, but these rules have largely been ignored by NHS hospitals until recently.

Pensioners returning to the UK for health reasons will be faced with questions about their eligibility. Those arriving from permanent retirement in non-EU member states will simply be denied free health care.

The only loophole for expat pensioners with serious heath problems will be their stated intention to spend the last years of their lives in the UK. However, it seems that failed asylum seekers, illegal immigrants and recently-arrived migrants will all be granted full use of the NHS for existing illnesses although not for newly-diagnosed conditions.
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Comments » There is 1 comment

Robert Banks wrote 10 years ago:

I am thinking of moving to France, I am already retired and drawing a pension, I have a business in the UK that gives me a further income and which I will pay tax on in the UK. If these changes take place does it mean I don't have to pay the tax since I would get no benefit from doing so? I feel a letter to my MP coming on. R.G.Banks

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