Health Services: British Nationals Abroad

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 4th April 2019.

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Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable Leader of the Liberal Democrats

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department is taking to ensure the affordability of travel insurance for (a) disabled people and (b) people with existing conditions in the event that UK citizens are no longer eligible for the European Health Insurance Card after the UK leaves the EU.

Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable Leader of the Liberal Democrats

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what representations he has received from charities on travel insurance for disabled people and people with existing conditions in the event that the arrangements in place for the European Health Insurance Card come to an end after the UK leaves the EU.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

On 19 March 2019, I laid a written ministerial statement (HCWS1429) on the Department’s plans for the continuity of reciprocal healthcare arrangements in the event we exit the European Union without a deal. This statement includes specific guidance on European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs).

The Department recognises that people with some pre-existing conditions rely on the EHIC to be able to travel. In a no deal scenario, these may no longer be valid in some EU Member States, and in European Free Trade Association (EFTA) states for those visitors not in scope of the EFTA Citizens’ Rights Agreements and travelling after exit day.

The United Kingdom Government has proposed to EU Member States and EFTA states that we should maintain the existing healthcare arrangements, including an EHIC type arrangement with similar benefits, in a no deal scenario until 31 December 2020, with the aim of minimising disruption to UK nationals and EU and EFTA state citizens’ healthcare provision. However, it is not possible for the UK Government to guarantee access unilaterally to healthcare abroad, as this depends on reciprocity from Member States.

The Department has advised UK nationals living in or travelling to EU Member States to check up to date information on GOV.UK and NHS.UK and ensure they have taken the necessary steps to prepare. This information is available on the following links:

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/overseas-living-in-guides

https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/healthcare-abroad/healthcare-when-travelling-abroad/travelling-in-the-european-economic-area-eea-and-switzerland/

It is already the case that we advise people to obtain comprehensive travel insurance when working, studying or travelling to the EU and the rest of the world. This will remain our advice in all circumstances. When travelling abroad, individuals are responsible for ensuring their travel insurance covers their healthcare needs.

The Department has engaged closely with partners such as the Association of British Travel Insurers and organisations representing people with long-term health conditions, such as Kidney Care UK and the British Lung Foundation, to understand the impacts on some patient groups with long-term conditions, as well as to help develop the Healthcare (European Economic Area and Switzerland Arrangements) Act 2019. This legislation will provide us with the power to fund and implement comprehensive reciprocal healthcare arrangements after we leave the EU.

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