Because it’s not just us as individuals suffering from rising inflation, increased costs of living, high fuel prices and the overall credit crunch, governments in certain European nations have been looking to cut their spending on healthcare particularly for foreign pre-retirees.  This has worried expats living in the likes of France and now Spain.

Meanwhile, the powers that be at the EU have been thinking up a way to allow any European to have healthcare anywhere in Europe and then get a refund for their treatment either from their local state system or from their health insurer.  In this free healthcare in Europe update we look at the situation in Valencia, Spain for pre-retiree expats and we look at the likelihood of cross border access to medical treatment.

In Valencia in Spain a recently discussed law change to disallow foreign pre-retirees access to free healthcare met with strong opposition largely from Britons living in the region.  The move was aimed at preventing those who contribute nothing to the state social scheme and who have not yet reached retirement age from accessing free healthcare.  Some might suggest that that is fair enough – but so much pressure has been put on the Spanish that there has been something of a reprieve for the estimated 1,600 Britons likely to be affected.

Those who were going to have been affected were told in no uncertain terms by the British embassy that they should get health insurance in place quickly.  But because a number of the pre-retirees had actually retired early because of ongoing and chronic conditions such as asthma or diabetes for example, such individuals quickly found out that they were also not eligible for health insurance.

Raising this issue with the Spanish authorities in Valencia has led them to have a re-think about how they are going to tackle the problem of preventing people from getting a free ride on their health system.  They have devised a plan so that those who are not yet at retirement age and who are not working or contributing to the state social scheme will have to pay a modest monthly premium to allow them continued access to free health care.  This premium will be payable by all affected and it will ensure that those who could not otherwise get health insurance will be fully covered and treated in the future.

In the other news to update you on, the EU is still pushing ahead with its plans to allow anyone within Europe the right to seek medical care anywhere within Europe and then be refunded for their treatment.  This is expected to cut waiting times and it will help those who live abroad for part of the year as they can have their treatment where it suits them.  However, the one spanner in the works is the posturing of the NHS.  They want to be able to pre-approve all treatment before they will consider paying for it.  This rather defeats the object – but, as the proposed law is not expected to be ratified and actionable before 2011, the EU still has plenty of time to work on the NHS.

Finally, any expatriate who leaves the UK to live abroad for more than 6 months at a time is not legally entitled to treatment other than emergency medical care under the NHS.  If you’re thinking of moving to live, work or retire abroad, please take the care of your health and wellbeing seriously and find out about what you will and won’t be entitled to and the potential requirement for insurance.  If you do need insurance, you need to know and you need to budget for it and for annual insurance premium inflation.  If I doubt, seek advice.