The announcement of the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill was slipped out yesterday, 26th October, a Friday afternoon.
This fast-track bill they say will “provide the powers that are needed” as part of stepping up preparations for the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal.
The full written statement (not very long) can be read HERE
One interesting sentence is this:
‘These arrangements ensure that UK nationals living and working in the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland can access healthcare in exchange for paying taxes and social security contributions.’
This implies that future healthcare will only be provided for those that have legal residency here in Portugal. In recent weeks I have had reports from those seeking temporary and permanent residency that proof of financial means is now required. Until now it has been enough in some areas of the country to simply declare one has ‘sufficient’ means. Now they want written proof. In some areas a social security number is also a requirement.
Pensioners that register their S1 forms (more about this below) will receive a social security number and an exemption from paying social security contributions, whilst those in employment will get theirs via their work registration.
Currently, there are two primary UK-based systems of healthcare for Brits abroad. One is the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) which is for emergency treatment in a country one is visiting as a short-stay tourist. The other is the S1 scheme. Pensioners’ entitlement to reciprocal healthcare is currently an exportable benefit under EU Regulation 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems.
Other exportable benefits, such as employment support allowance, also carry healthcare entitlements, while workers posted to another EU Member State can use the S1 scheme to fund their care. The S1 scheme plays a significant role in healthcare provision for older people. Approximately 190,000 UK state pensioners now live in other EU/EEA countries.
The statement issued yesterday reads, ‘When the UK leaves the EU the current EU regulations will no longer be part of UK law and new legislation will be needed. This Bill confers powers on the Secretary of State to make, and arrange for payments to be made, in respect of the cost of healthcare provided outside the UK. This would allow for the funding of reciprocal healthcare arrangements for UK nationals living in the EU, EEA and Switzerland.’
It would appear that the EHIC for UK tourists will disappear.
In Portugal an S1 form isn’t strictly necessary as residents are permitted to use the Portuguese NHS (SNS), but as it costs nothing to obtain and register, and is a right, it makes sense to have it as a back-up for the future, in case the Portuguese rules change. If you don’t have an S1 form you can contact the Overseas Healthcare Team:
Overseas Healthcare Team
Tyne and Wear NE38 7SF
Tel. +44 191 218 1999
Fax. +44 191 225 2235
Once you have the S1 – two copies will be sent – take them to your local Social Security office for registration. They will keep both and in around a week you should get a confirming letter which will also have your allocated social security number.