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Britons in Europe express anger over UK government's Brexit healthcare offer

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Britons in Europe express anger over UK government's Brexit healthcare offer
Photo: egal/Depositphotos
08:52 CET+01:00
The British government's offer to cover the health costs of UK pensioners in Europe was meant to provide reassurance to elderly British citizens. The time-limited offer has been met with scorn however by rights groups that represent British nationals in the EU.

The offer of a 12-month assurance of health cover in the event of a no-deal Brexit  for UK retirees in the EU was met with scorn and derision by representatives of rights group British in Europe.

“It is shameful that people who have contributed all their lives to the National Health Insurance scheme are suddenly stripped of their rights. They have just as much right to expect the same healthcare as anyone living in the UK”, said Delia Dumaresq, a committee member of British in Italy which is part of the umbrella group British in Europe.

“They came to live in the EU, relying on the fact that they could face old age without having to worry about medical bills. Being abandoned by the British government like this has been their worst Brexit nightmare," added Dumaresq. 

The UK government's offer was designed to compensate for the loss of S1 reciprocal agreements, whereby the UK's National Health System paid EU member states to provide healthcare to EU-based UK nationals.

The UK is seeking to extend the current reciprocal health agreements until the end of 2020 but if the EU doesn't agree then London has offered to fund the healthcare for pensioners for 12 months.

But that depends on EU states agreeing to treat British citizens and then be reimbursed.

Some UK nationals in the EU who have pre-existing conditions could have to pay more than €15,000 per year to obtain a private health insurance that would provide similar healthcare to the currently-active S1 European health scheme. Some Britons in Europe expressed fears that they would struggle to obtain private health insurance.

British in Europe argues that the offer will only help patients who have existing conditions such as cancer or kidney in the short term. failure to continue to obtain medical treatment for at least another year, regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU on March 29th, as currently scheduled, or at a later date if the EU grants a Brexit delay. 

Dumaresq says the offer of health cover for 12 months will not reassure UK retirees who live in the EU and have existing health conditions. "What happens to them when the year is over? People’s lives are literally at stake," Dumaresq said in the statement. 

On Wednesday Theresa May's government asked the EU to grant a three month extension in order for her to secure a deal, asking for an extension to Article 50 (the period between officially asking to leave and becoming a non-EU state) until June 30th. Article 50 is set to expire at 11pm GMT on March 29th.

 
The UK government's move is designed to assuage fears but British in Europe says it could be derailed by administration. 
 
“What is to happen in those countries where the possession of an S1 certificate, which until now entitled them to healthcare and will no longer be valid, is essential for enrollment in their health service?
 
"And how on earth is this ill-defined scheme to be understood by hard-pressed administrators in surgeries and hospitals over 27 different countries?  And if they do not know how to administer it, is there not a massive risk that they will either refuse treatment or insist that the patient pays?” asks British in Italy. 
 
 
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