Brit expats in EU call discrimination over post-Brexit free heathcare

Published:  23 Sep at 6 PM
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Protesting British expats are saying the Spanish government has done more to help them to help them than has the UK government .

During an anti-Brexit demonstration in Malaga held by British expats, one protestor told reporters Spain had done far more for Brits than has the UK, a sentiment echoed by UK expatriates in Germany and France. Given that retired Britons over the age of 65 make up one third of all UK citizens living in Spain, expats’ major concern is losing access to the country’s free healthcare. In spite of endless attempts to get clarification of their situation post-Brexit from the UK government, the vast majority of Brits in Spain are angry at parliament’s seeming inability to even consider the devastating effect Brexit is due to have on their lives.

In an online media article dated 23 September, a promise by Health Secretary Matt Hancock that £150 million will be made available for the healthcare costs of 180,000 Britons living in EU member states has a sting in its tail – the cover will only extend to six months and will only be activated in the case of a no-deal Brexit. Also, it includes British tourists whose holidays begin before the date of Britain’s leaving the EU, whenever that might be. Unsurprisingly, the announcement met with anger amongst campaign groups who’ve been calling for full rights for Britons living, working or retiring in Europe.

Bremain in Spain chair Sue Wilson’s opinion is that it’s the same old, same old government story of pushing the issue a few more miles down the road in the hope no-one will notice. Time-limited announcements, she said, have the opposite effect in that they cause even more stress as there’s no suggestion of what will happen six months later. The Leave campaign, she added, promised British expats’ rights would not change. Vice-chair of British in Europe Jeremy Morgan called the government’s advice to ‘act now to secure access to healthcare’ a massive letdown for expat retirees, adding many can’t get insurance due either to pre-existing conditions or advanced age, with those receiving just the UK state pension simply unable to afford it.

Some months ago, the British government pledged to cover healthcare costs for one year for all Britons in Europe who were already receiving treatment on Brexit day. The new announcement pledges the extension of this plan to cover treatments and healthcare costs of conditions diagnosed after Britain leaves the EU. Eligibility includes pensioners, UK company employees, students and even Brits who’re on holiday when Brexit becomes a reality. The scheme and its additions, seen by many as discrimination, aren’t cutting much ice with British retirees in Europe who paid taxes all their working lives and now risk being stuck in a bureaucratic nightmare not of their making.
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