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Healthcare in Spain after Brexit: What you need to know

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Healthcare in Spain after Brexit: What you need to know
Photo: Alexis84/Depositphotos
17:37 CEST+02:00
The latest UK government announcement about the provision of health care to British nationals living in the EU in the event of a No-deal Brexit sent shockwaves through the ‘expat’ community and was particularly alarming for those Brits in the EU who are pensioners or living with long term illnesses or disabilities.

Britain's health secretary Matt Hancock announced on Monday that health costs for UK pensioners living in the EU and those with disabilities would be guaranteed for six months if Britain leaves the bloc on October 31st without a deal.

That could mean that if no withdrawal agreement in place Britons living in the European Union could find themselves unable to access local healthcare from May next year. 

Currently, pensioners can benefit from the “S1” reciprocal healthcare rules if they retire in the EU, EEA countries or Switzerland.

But if the situation changes it could lead to an increased burden on the NHS as British retirees decide it's better to return to the UK for treatment.

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Photo: AFP

This news that those who were surviving on S1 forms could have their healthcare withdrawn caused great anxiety and facebook groups for Brits in Europe were inundated with angry comments about the development.

"This is yet more smoke and mirrors from the UK government and another massive let-down for UK pensioners in the EU 27," said Jeremy Morgan, the vice-chair of British in Europe.

Hancock’s statement brought confusion: Hadn’t Spain already agreed to honour British residents’ rights to health care under the Royal Decree contingency plans brought into law in March?

Was this statement a signal that there would be no sign of the reciprocity that the Spanish demand?

The Local sought clarification from the Department of Health and Social Care over the issue and we can confirm that the latest statement does not cancel out previous agreements.

“The UK and Spain have each taken steps to ensure that people living in each country can continue to access healthcare as they do now until at least 31 December 2020,” insists the DHSC in a statement sent to The Local Spain.

“This means that if you are currently living in Spain and the UK currently pays for your healthcare, for example you are an S1 form holder, your healthcare access will remain the same after  October 31st 2019.”

It also confirmed that even in the event of a No-Deal Brexit, UK-issued European Health Insurance Care (EHIC) holders in Spain, such as tourists, students and some workers, “will also be able to continue to access healthcare in the same way until at least December 31st  2020.”

And there’s some reassuring news for those with existing medical conditions: “Those who have planned treatment in Spain using an S2 form, will also be able to continue to access healthcare in the same way until at least 31 December 2020.”

Information on the Brexit section of the Spanish government website also states the same continued rights for British citizens resident in Spain but emphasises that only so long as “the competent British authorities grant reciprocal treatment to Spanish citizens”.

So, Britons in Spain can be sure of an extra seven months more than the guaranteed healthcare announced by Hancock – at least until the end of December 2020.

How to prepare for Brexit:

Make sure that you are registered with Spanish social security and that you have a valid health card.

Your rights may change if there is a no-deal Brexit and the Spanish and UK authorities and whatever agreement comes next it will be easier to prove that you were entitled to it if you are already in the system.

If you have health insurance, keep it updated and see if you can guarantee your current rate will be maintained for at least the next year. Premiums might well go up for Brits after Brexit.

If you're an S1 form holder, you are currently entitled to a UK-issued EHIC for use when you're travelling outside of Spain. This may not be accepted in all EU countries if there's a no-deal Brexit so make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance.

Spanish legislation guarantees the right to healthcare for all workers registered in the Spanish social security system, even if there's a no-deal Brexit.

If you're working in Spain, you may have a Spanish-issued EHIC. This will continue to be accepted in other EU countries and the UK.

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