UK ‘health tourism’ headache for ex pats
In an attempt to prevent what is being tagged as ‘health tourism’, the British government plans to charge ex pats traveling back to the UK for medical care, believed to cost the NHS around £200 million a year.
Whilst this new ruling is mainly aimed at stopping abuse of the NHS such as heavily pregnant ladies arriving ‘on holiday’, and giving birth in a country which offers free medical care, it will nevertheless have an impact on ex pats. The areas where health tourism is reportedly most abused are maternity services, oncology, HIV services, infertility and the treatment of renal failure.
At present, according to a rule which is rarely applied, pensioners should not live abroad more than 3 months in any year if they wish to qualify for free health treatment on trips back to the UK. This will now be extended to 6 months in order to ‘strike a fairer balance’.
Under the new ruling, ex pat retirees from the UK who live abroad for more than half the year will be denied free treatment, despite having paid tax and National Insurance in the UK, and only emergencies such as heart attacks, accidents or genuine sudden illness will be treated free of charge.
Tory health spokesman Liam Fox said: “There could be no clearer betrayal of hardworking British citizens than to deprive our own pensioners of the use of the NHS to which they have contributed throughout their lives at a time when health tourists and illegal asylum seekers are making use of these very facilities.”
Ex pat retirees returning to the UK to live permanently will qualify for free medical care.