Brexit’s impact on expat health insurance in Europe
Currently, more than 780,000 UK citizens are living in Europe, and this number is expected to go on increasing as various uncertainties continue to loom over the UK through to 2020. Today, all Britons living in Europe enjoy free or cheaper health insurance coverage, thanks to their home country being part of the EU. However, this is all about to change as Britain exits the EU, a move known widely as Brexit.
In this article by Pacific Prime, we will explore what’s really going on with Brexit, Brexit’s impact on expat health insurance in Europe, and what you can do to prepare for this historic breakup.
What’s going on with Brexit?
Brexit has turned out to be a massively complicated event, which, after more than 3 years, has yet to be concluded. Let’s go through the key events which got us to this uncertain point in the present day.
How it all started
The European Union (EU) is an economic and political union of 28 European countries. The EU allows for free trade and free movement of people between member states. The UK joined the union in 1973 when it was still known as the European Economic Community.
On June 23, 2016, the UK held a referendum (public vote) on whether the country should leave the EU. The referendum saw a whopping 72% turnout, with more than 30 million people arriving at the polls to cast their vote.
The results were close. Those voting to leave the EU won by 52% to 48%, setting the UK on a historic course to become the first member state to leave the union.
How it’s going to end
Initially, the deadline for Brexit was on March 29, 2019, giving the UK almost three years to make the necessary internal preparations and agreements with the EU before its actual departure.
However, due to a sea of economic, social, and political complications, various Brexit agreements reached between the UK, the EU, and other stakeholders were rejected in parliament by UK lawmakers. This resulted in 3 postponements of the Brexit deadline, which during the time this article is being written, is on January 31, 2020.
Most people are worried that UK lawmakers and their counterparts in the EU will not be able to reach an agreement to maintain crucial elements of the social and economic relationships between the two parties after the UK’s departure. This worrying scenario has come to be known as a no-deal Brexit.
Now that we’ve ironed out the latest developments on Brexit, let’s find out what it means for expat health insurance in Europe and how it will affect the lives of Britons currently living in EU countries.
Brexit’s impact on expat health insurance in Europe?
Brexit’s impact on expat health insurance in Europe can be seen from two angles. Firstly, it may change the nature of health insurance for temporary visitors. Secondly, the fate of UK government-funded healthcare coverage for Britons living in the EU hangs in the balance.
All residencies in the UK are entitled to apply for a UK-issued EHIC, which covers medically necessary state-provided healthcare at a reduced cost or, in many cases, free of charge during a temporary stay in another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland.
The UK has issued 27 million EHIC cards to date, and British people enjoy £150 million worth of treatment under the EHIC scheme each year.
However, the nature of health insurance in the EU for temporary visitors from the UK may change significantly depending on the outcome of Brexit. The possible impacts of Brexit on the EHIC are as follows:
- Scenario 1 – A deal is reached between the UK and the EU before Brexit: If a deal is reached, Britons living in the EU would have the same rights and guarantees as before, with regards to the EHIC cards. Although experts predict that the UK would eventually strike a deal with the EU before Brexit occurs, it is important to note that a no-deal Brexit is still possible.
- Scenario 2 – A no-deal Brexit occurs: If the UK departs from the EU without reaching a deal, EHIC cards held by British residents may no longer be valid. The verdict on the EHIC’s fate remains blurry, as the UK scrambles to secure individual arrangements with EU countries to keep the EHIC scheme alive for Britons, should a no-deal Brexit occur.
Britons living in the EU
Apart from temporary visitors, there are nearly a million British expats living in EU countries. As the Brexit deadline approaches, more and more Britons continue to move to Europe. In 2019, an estimated 84,000 people are expected to leave Britain for another EU country, the highest number of people leaving the UK in up to 10 years.
Many Brits living in the EU, who are retirees or students, rely on healthcare coverage funded by the UK under existing reciprocal arrangements with other EU countries. However, this may no longer be the case if a no-deal Brexit occurs. In September, the UK government pledged £150 million to temporarily cover the healthcare costs of 180,000 British nationals living in the EU, in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
But there’s a catch. Under the pledged budget, these individuals will only receive healthcare coverage for six months after a no-deal Brexit occurs. After the 6-months period, these expats may have to pay for their own healthcare coverage.
All in all, there is still a lack of clarity on what expatriate healthcare for Britons living in the EU means after Brexit. It is this Brexit-induced uncertainty that impacts the health insurance industry in the EU.
Due to the uncertainty which Brexit brings, more British expats in the EU are starting to secure private health insurance to mitigate Brexit-related healthcare risks and costs. The British in Europe expat organization has also been suggesting that people voluntarily join the local healthcare service in the country they are living in or purchase health insurance packages.
How should I prepare for Brexit?
Whether or not you should start making adjustments to your healthcare arrangements will depend on the EU country you live in. If the UK has made agreements with the EU country you currently live in, then you may continue to receive UK government-funded healthcare coverage even in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
For instance, the UK has made an arrangement with Spain to continue providing healthcare coverage for UK nationals living in Spain until at least December 31, 2020.
To find out how Brexit will impact your healthcare coverage, you can consult our expat health insurance experts at Pacific Prime. We are able to provide private health insurance cover for many countries around the world, including UK health insurance.
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