Home » Expat Focus International Healthcare Update December 2019

Expat Focus International Healthcare Update December 2019

Election result in the UK sees Conservatives returned with a majority

The main news for British expats is, of course, the results of the recent general election on Thursday 12th December. This has seen the Conservative party returned with a substantial majority and as a result, Brexit will now be going ahead as originally planned on the 31st January 2020. How is this scenario likely to affect your healthcare, if you are a Briton living in a EU nation?Although the possibility of no deal is not entirely off the table, the current Withdrawal Agreement secures the rights of Britons currently living in the EU, and also the rights of anyone who is planning to move from the UK to the EU during the transition period, which will come to an end in December 2020. This includes your healthcare rights, so if you are currently eligible to access public healthcare in your host nation, this arrangement should continue.

Some rights in some countries – for example, Spain – will be based on reciprocal rights being extended to EU citizens resident in the UK, however, so it is to be hoped that a more or less level playing field will be established on both sides of the Channel. Currently, around 1 million Britons live in Spain and many are elderly, resulting in some very valid concerns about continued rights to healthcare.

If you are a pensioner and currently covered under the S1 form then this will also remain unchanged, and you should retain your right to public healthcare in your host country if the Withdrawal Agreement goes ahead and if reciprocity is granted.

Any private cover that you have will remain unaffected. However, it is advisable to keep an eye on this issue of reciprocity, since it is this that could cause stumbling blocks with your continued access to public healthcare provision abroad.

Age UK updates advice about returning to the UK from abroad

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In December, Age UK updated its advice to expats returning to Britain from abroad. The organisation advises returning expats to register with a GP and a dental practice as soon as they return to the UK. They also suggest that if you have care and support needs, you should be aware that you are entitled to a local authority needs assessment (although this will not guarantee that you will get the care that you need, as you may not meet the eligibility criteria).

Issues with health insurance in Thailand

Further afield, expats have been encountering problems with their health care cover in Thailand.

When applying to the Thai immigration authorities for long stay visas, both British and American expats have found that their respective embassies are no longer issuing confirmatory letters of expats’ incomes: you need to prove your income in order to apply for a visa. In addition to this, the obligation of taking out compulsory private health insurance was introduced for some people holding certain types of visas.

This should be – theoretically – a non-issue, since so many expats choose to take out private policies. However, health insurance is only considered valid for visa purposes if it is obtained from a relatively short list of Thai-based and Thai-owned insurance companies. This means that if you have private cover from one of the big international providers, it’s no longer any help in getting you a visa for Thailand.

Furthermore, some of the Thai cover is not only more expensive, but also covers a more limited range of treatment: a no-win situation which has led to many expats leaving the country. That has also been fuelled by the high charges in private hospitals in the country.

The government has now taken over the regulation of private healthcare to some extent after complaints from expats and is imposing a colour-coded scheme on charges: green, red and yellow, with green being the least expensive and red being the costliest. Following the changes, 164 Thai hospitals are expected to come under this new government ruling in 2020 and be placed in the green category. This is good news for the many expats resident in Thailand, but it is advisable to check with your local hospital and to keep a close eye on the forthcoming changes.

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