EU healthcare deal: UK House of Lords calls for clarity

A new House of Lords EU Committee report warns that, in the absence of an agreement on the subject, the rights of UK citizens to hold an EHIC card for treatment in the EU will cease after Brexit.


The House of Lords EU Committee is urging the government to clarify the reciprocal healthcare arrangements for UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK post Brexit.

Its report Brexit: reciprocal healthcare warns that, in the absence of a healthcare deal, the rights of UK citizens to hold an EHIC card for treatment in the EU will cease following the separation.

Other rights, provided for by the S2 scheme and Patients' Rights Directive, will likewise come to an end, the Committee said. Without EHIC or an equivalent arrangement it could become much more expensive for UK citizens with chronic conditions – such as those with diabetes or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for example - to travel to the EU post-Brexit, for holidays, recuperation or treatment.

The government wishes to maintain reciprocal healthcare arrangements including the EHIC scheme after Brexit, but these are designed to support the freedom of movement of EU citizens. As it intends to stop freedom of movement to the UK, the government must now confirm how it plans to protect reciprocal rights to healthcare of all UK and EU citizens, the Committee said.

It is also calling for use of domestic legislation to clarify the means by which all EU citizens that lawfully reside in the UK at the time of Brexit will be able to continue to access essential healthcare.

“One of the primary aims of the EU’s reciprocal healthcare arrangements is to support free movement by eliminating the financial or bureaucratic barriers that individuals would otherwise face in accessing healthcare,” said Lord Jay of Ewelme, Chairman of the Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee. “These arrangements have brought the greatest benefit to some of the most vulnerable members of our society,” he said.

“We do not wish to see this progress reversed in the future. While we applaud the spirit underlying the Government’s ambition to maintain reciprocal healthcare arrangements, including the EHIC, post-Brexit, it is difficult to square this with ending freedom of movement of people from the EU.”

To help both UK and EU citizens plan for a future after Brexit, the government must “clarify whether it will seek UK participation in the EHIC, S1 and S2 schemes as a non-EU Member State; set up a separate scheme with the EU27; or explore the possibility of reaching bilateral arrangements with individual EU Member States,” he said.

Tonya Stewart

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