DO THE CHANGES TO HEALTH-CARE CHARGES TO OVERSEAS NATIONALS AFFECT YOU?
The government has from 23 October 2017, brought into force regulations which add to changes to health care charges which date back to April 2015. The changes affect overseas nationals and some British Citizens who are returning to the UK.
The government now require those accessing health services to show that their immigration status allows them access to free health care before they are given treatment, or to pay for their treatment before it is provided. Instructions have been provided to NHS staff advising them on how and when to make enquiries about an individual’s immigration status. The Guidance document which details who needs to evidence their right to free treatment and how is long and complicated with numerous exemptions to charges detailed.
The rule of thumb is that if an individual is ordinarily resident in the UK, they will be entitled to free health treatment. Generally, the rules mean that overseas visitors to the UK and British Nationals who are no longer living in the UK are not entitled to free NHS treatment. The government advises that they should have private health insurance in place before coming to the UK.
Who is exempt from the charges?
• EEA Nationals exercising treaty rights are exempt from the charges.
• Non-EEA nationals who have paid an immigration health surcharge with their application to enter or remain in the UK (or who applied before the surcharge came into effect) will be entitled to free health treatment, if they are ordinarily resident in the UK and their permission to remain here is still valid.
• Overseas nationals who hold indefinite leave to remain are still entitled to free NHS treatment where they are ordinarily resident in the UK.
• Vulnerable patients including asylum seekers whose case remains under consideration by UK Visas and Immigration and appeal-rights exhausted asylum seekers who are in receipt of section 4 support will be entitled to free treatment. Also included in this category are children looked after by a local authority, victims and suspected victims of modern slavery, any one receiving treatment under a court order and overseas visitors who have been determined as exempt from NHS charges for exceptional humanitarian reasons.
• Certain other groups of people are exempt from charging include some UK Government Employees and war pensioners, and those covered by reciprocal healthcare agreements.
The changes are another concerning way in which the government targets overseas nationals in the UK with identification checks, similar to those introduced with the Right to Rent scheme. Overseas nationals who have accessed NHS treatment when they have been assessed as not being so entitled are often surprised to receive an invoice form the NHS Trust which provided treatment. If the invoice was raised when the patient had the right to access NHS treatment, or a service exempt from charges the NHS right to charge may be subject to challenge.
If you have any concerns about your entitlement to free NHS treatment, it is advisable to get advice before the need to access the service.