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European Union

Lords warn over loss of reciprocal health rights after Brexit

Patients with long-term conditions may have to pay for private health insurance cover when travelling to other European countries after Brexit, a House of Lords committee has warned.

European Health Insurance card (EHIC), close up

Source: Steven May / Alamy Stock Photo

Rights to reciprocal healthcare when travelling to other European countries under the terms of the European Health Insurance Card will cease after Brexit, says a report from a House of Lords committee

Brexit will have a “significant impact” on the UK’s reciprocal healthcare arrangements with other European countries, peers have warned.

People with long-term conditions, rare diseases or those with a disability who rely on the current system could be put off travelling to the European Union (EU) if they are forced to pay for private health insurance cover instead of relying on their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), according to the House of Lord’s European Union Committee’s report ‘Brexit: reciprocal healthcare’.

The report, which followed the peer’s inquiry into the impact of reciprocal healthcare post-Brexit, welcomed the government’s ambition for UK and EU patient rights to be protected if they are accessing healthcare at the point of Brexit. But the Lords were concerned that until that right is made legally binding, entitlement is still unclear.

They were also worried about rights to reciprocal healthcare for those who were not already accessing healthcare services when the UK leaves the EU.

The report said: “In the absence of an agreement on future relations, the rights to reciprocal healthcare currently enjoyed by 27 million UK citizens, thanks to the EHIC, will cease after Brexit. Other rights, provided for by the S2 scheme and Patients’ Rights Directive, which cover planned treatment in other EU member states, will also come to an end.

“Without more detail from the government about how exactly it intends to maintain reciprocal healthcare arrangements or provide a suitable replacement … we should not take the future of UK-EU reciprocal healthcare for granted.”

The peers also expressed concern about the impact Brexit will have on cross-border healthcare between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Under the present arrangements, healthcare professionals can work either side of the border, patients can access cross-border healthcare and ambulances can travel freely.

“A hard border on the island of Ireland would be highly detrimental to healthcare for patients on both sides of the border,” the report warned.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20204621

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  • European Health Insurance card (EHIC), close up

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