Expats arriving in the UK now being advised to take out private health insurance

Published:  23 Mar at 6 PM
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In spite of the looming effects of Brexit, the UK is still a popular destination for expat professionals from outside the European Union.

Although the number of EU nationals headingto the UK to further their careers may soon reverse itself as most are forced to pack up and leave post-Brexit, the country is expected to still be open to workers from across the world, provided they qualify for visas. However, one common misconception about Britain is that heathcare is free and amongst the best in the world, thus voiding the need for expensive private medical insurance.

Britain’s National Health Service once had the deserved reputation of being one of the world’s best, but years of underfunding have made it a sad reminder of former glories. Centres of excellence do still exist, but they’re mostly situated in London, with heathcare in the rest of the country a shadow of its former self. Dependent on the fate of expat heathcare workers post-Brexit, the situation may deteriorate still further, meaning even longer waiting times for urgent surgery and even for routine visits to a doctor.

In the past, those living permanently in the UK were rarely charged for using the NHS, and expats from EU member states were covered by reciprocal EU agreements via the coveted European Health Card, soon to be cancelled when the UK exits the European Union. Agreements also exist between the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and are not expected to be affected by Brexit.

Post-Brexit, expats in general will only be entitled to free visits to a doctor and emergency services at UK hospitals, with rulings covering other treatments still unclear and possibly dependent on patients’ reasons for being in the UK as well as their length of stay. Even nationals from Australia and New Zealand are now only covered for six-month stays rather than the previous rule of 12 months.

Given the above and the possibility of further changes after Brexit, expats and students determined to live, study or work in the UK are now being advised to get private health insurance. A new rule, the Immigrant Health Surcharge, will require upfront payments for NHS healthcare and will be compulsory for those arriving from countries without reciprocal health agreements with the UK. Nowadays, even UK citizens living overseas cannot access NHS services without paying, in spite of their decades of compulsory National Insurance contributions.

Source: Expat Focus
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