Currently, British pensioners living as expats in EU member countries receive healthcare through a European Union agreement – the EU reciprocal “S1” scheme – which allows them to have the same healthcare rights as the country’s local population.
But this could all change after Brexit. If this reciprocal agreement is dropped, which is likely, it will mean expats would have to return to the UK for healthcare – a far costlier option for the Department of Health.
In fact, unless a deal can be reached that will allow expats to continue receiving their care abroad, then the cost of treating them in Britain could be £1 billion each year – a figure twice the current £500 million it takes to run the S1 scheme.
Financial and human strain
The additional strain on medical resources in the UK is another major concern. It is believed an extra 900 hospital beds (the equivalent of two hospitals) will be needed to accommodate returning expats. Plus, Brexit is set to worsen the staffing problems; an influx of patients would require an extra 1,600 medical professionals to care for them and yet the flow of EU migrant workers, which health and social care services rely heavily upon, is likely to dry up .
The BBC estimates that around 190,000 British pensioners live abroad in EU member countries. One EU member country with a large population of expat pensioners is Spain, where there are approximately 70,000 retired UK citizens using the country’s healthcare system.
Speaking to The Independent, the head of Bremain in Spain, Sue Wilson, was fearful of those living on low incomes who, post-Brexit, would not be able to afford healthcare under the Spanish system and therefore be forced to move back to the UK.
“The biggest fear for people here, many who have been here for a long time, is that they would be forced to go home against their wishes because of the finances,” Wilson said, adding that it’s not a decision many expats would “gladly make”.
The author of the report, Mark Dayan, voiced concerns regarding how this extra cost would cause even more pressure to an already struggling NHS, noting that the healthcare system was already faced with “tight funding settlements and growing staffing problems well before the EU referendum last year”.
Dayan went on to stress how important it is for the government to recognise the NHS as a “significant priority” during Brexit negotiations.
Expat financial care
The years following Brexit are bound to be tough for the NHS, and both expats returning to the UK and those who’ve lived in the UK all their lives are sure to feel the effects. At times like these, when the future is uncertain, one of the best ways you can give yourself peace of mind is by ensuring your finances are well protected.
One of the best ways to do this is by contacting a Blacktower financial adviser. Whether you need help safeguarding your finance in Spain against the uncertainty of Brexit negotiations or require assistance in reaching another financial goal, our advisers will give you all the expert guidance and advice you need to make your money go further.