Examination of Witnesses

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:17 pm on 9th June 2020.

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Adrian Berry:

The draft social security treaty is attached to the draft free trade agreement, which is available on the Government website now, from last month. It includes short-term healthcare coverage for people who are travelling for short-term purposes, such as tourism and temporary work contracts, to receive what we call the EHIC card scheme. It also includes a system for old age pensions to be paid overseas in other EU member states and uprated to be equivalent to home pension rates here.

What is missing, and what we are losing, is disability pensions being paid overseas, and healthcare, which was attached to old age pensions and to disability pensions under the EU co-ordination regime, will no longer be attached for pensioners who retire in Spain, Cyprus or wherever, from 2021 onwards. At the moment, it is a bonus ball. If you get a pension paid overseas, healthcare coverage is included under the EU co-ordination regime and the bill is paid by the UK Treasury. In the new proposed UK treaty, that is going; it is just your old age pension uprating.

The UK has split the interrelationship between healthcare and social security and pensions, which is contained in the EU co-ordination regime, into two silos: social security and pensions in one silo, in this Bill, and healthcare arrangements under the Healthcare (European Economic Area and Switzerland Arrangements) Act 2019. There is no draft healthcare treaty attached to the UK’s draft free trade agreement at the moment, and no healthcare provisions included in this draft social security treaty. Both of those are missing.

Additionally missing is the S2 scheme, which we have at the moment, for people to make arrangements, prior to travel, to receive hard-to-find treatment in EU member states, if they cannot get NHS treatment in the UK. There is no S2 scheme for British citizens to go and receive that form of healthcare—healthcare that is unavailable here—and to get it in EU states. The cross-border health directive, which allows people to have their prescriptions and pick them up in EU states, will effectively be repealed. There is no provision for that in the draft social security treaty.

Who loses out? The disabled. They will not be able to get private health insurance to travel on holiday. It will have a direct and differential impact on people with physical and mental impairments. It will also have an impact on anybody who thinks they are going to be retiring to Spain, Italy or France. They will not have healthcare insurance there, even if they get their pension uprated. It is a big loss.