No free NHS treatment at home for UK expats

Will Europeans continue to tolerate high taxes as benefits are stripped away? Source: The Globe and Mail; Click to enlarge

British expats are up in arms over new rules preventing them from receiving free NHS treatment. The new regulations, designed to curb expat “medical tourism,” forbid free treatment to UK pensioners who have lived abroad for six months or more.

That means no matter how much an expat has paid in taxes over his lifetime, he is now on the hook for the cost of any medical treatment at home. Emergencies (such as heart attacks) will still be covered.

The new law is designed to prevent older Brits with chronic health conditions from using the NHS system like medical tourists, thus driving up public spending on health.

Not surprisingly this has angered many expats. The Kuwait Times‘ Lisa Conrad interviewed several British expats for their opinions on the amended rules. All were outraged.

A 55-year old expat named James said:

Are the rioters still eligible for free NHS care then? Would it be better we smashed up the country instead of visiting it two or three times a year, spending huge sums on shopping, eating out and entertainment? That’s a considerable tax contribution alone, given the VAT rates in the UK.

On the younger end of the spectrum, 26-year old Stephen commented:

It’s not their right to decide that all the tax we paid is somehow disqualified. I paid income tax, value added tax, council tax, car tax and even what is essentially a TV tax. You pay for absolutely everything in England, but it is in return for certain benefits. It’s like buying something in installments and being told that you’re no longer getting the product in return. Even if we’re working abroad, it doesn’t mean our past contributions don’t count. Plus, I don’t know any expats here or that I’ve met elsewhere who were ever on benefits from the government, so actually we contributed all those years and took nothing in return, unlike so many others.

“Interestingly,” Conrad observed, “the British expats interviewed were all outraged at the concept, but also added that they wouldn’t use NHS care unless they are in dire straits.”

The discontent will only continue as European governments scramble to slash spending in the face of the Eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis, leaving their citizens at home and abroad to pay high taxes and reap fewer benefits.