Press Release: Healthcare announcement

Reacting to the UK Government’s announcement that it will only fund S1 healthcare  for 180,000 UK nationals in the EU 27 – including pensioners and persons with disabilities –   for six months after a no deal Brexit,  Jeremy Morgan, Vice Chair of British in Europe said:

‘This is yet more smoke and mirrors from the UK government and another massive let-down for UK pensioners in the EU 27.  Having paid UK taxes and contributions all their working lives, when they moved to their host country, they had the right and expectation to NHS-funded medical treatment for life.  This was a key factor in the decision of many when moving.

Now the only guarantee they have is for 6 more months, or up to a year if they have already started treatment.  Just think what that means to someone who already needs life-long treatment, or a pensioner who gets a cancer diagnosis a month after Brexit.

The Government is urging them to “act now to secure access to healthcare” as if it were as simple as ordering coffee in a restaurant.  People won’t get private health insurance if they have existing conditions, and in those countries where it is possible to join a national scheme the cost is simply unaffordable for someone living on the state pension worth 20% less in euros as a result of Brexit. 

If the UK government is serious about protecting some of its most vulnerable nationals from the fallout of Brexit (let alone no deal) it should commit to funding S1 healthcare indefinitely, not fob them off with empty promises of ‘smooth transitions’.’

Many pensioners will struggle to afford healthcare if they lose S1

Access to health care in one’s state of residence has been the number one concern of the 1 in 5 UK citizens living in the EU 27 who are over pension age since the Referendum in 2016.

In France pensioners or those on low incomes would not have to contribute to health care costs BUT they would immediately have to pay social charges of 9% to 10% on all pension income (state and occupational), which they do not do now, as their health cover is funded by the UK. In Italy it is 7.5% of gross incomes of up to €20,000.

Furthermore, joining health care systems can be a complex and time consuming process, for  example in France it can take up to 9-12 months.

UK pensioners in the EU 27 are already squeezed by the falling pound

The UK already has the lowest state pension in the OECD and the falling pound

over the last 3 years has eroded this even further.  Many UK pensioners chose to retire to the EU 27 where their incomes go further and they can afford a better quality of life than in the UK.

Kalba Meadows said:

‘Many pensioners are already living on next to nothing – just a state pension and sometimes not even a full one. There is no room in their budgets for added healthcare costs and combined with no promise of uprating beyond 3 years, people are genuinely frightened for their survival.’

Moving back to the UK is often peddled as a fallback for pensioners – but many UK retirees no longer have ties with, or family in, the UK, let alone property. Even if assets could be liquidised it’s a huge upheaval and for those with serious health problems may be impossible.  Uncertainty over whether they would immediately become ‘ordinarily resident’ and therefore have access to the NHS is also an issue.

In many places S1 holders who were unable to obtain affordable health cover could struggle to liquidate their assets and sell their homes. Houses in rural France and parts of Spain take many years to sell and some are virtually unsellable.

Jane Golding, Co-Chair of British in Europe said:

‘This latest sleight of hand from the UK government highlights once again the need for the EU and UK to agree to ringfence the citizens’ rights part of the withdrawal agreement. Although it is far from perfect, it would guarantee S1 healthcare would continue and provide some reassurance for deeply worried people’.


For more information or to arrange an interview or comment please contact:

Laura Shields
@mediawhizz @britishineurope


What is S1 healthcare?

The EU has a system of reciprocal healthcare for pensioners and some others under which the country in which a person has contributed most pension contributions is liable to pay their healthcare costs when they retire, and the country in which they are living provides the treatment just as it would to any of its own nationals.  The country which has given the treatment bills the country which pays the pension.  It is called “S1” after the form which shows your entitlement.

Some 180,000 UK pensioners in the EU are enrolled in their local health service under this scheme (and of course the NHS bills treats EU pensioners in the UK and bills the country paying their pension).  Whilst pensioners are the main beneficiaries of the scheme, it also covers  some 10,000 “posted workers” (living in the EU but employed by UK companies) and their families, as well as frontier workers who live in the UK but work in another country.