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State pension claimants in Britain can receive their payments abroad, so long as they’ve paid enough UK National Insurance contributions to qualify. However, many may have worried about their entitlements following the ongoing Brexit negotiations but recently, it emerged those based in Spain – a popular destination for British retirees – will have their healthcare support protected.
Following research from A Place in the Sun, in partnership with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), it was detailed those based in Spain will continue to receive guranteed healthcare rights going forward.
UK residents, including those with second homes, can still use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) at state hospitals or clinics in Spain when required.
On expiry, they should then apply for the new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which provides the same access.
It was explained it is really important to purchase insurance too though, as the EHIC or GHIC doesn’t cover every situation, such as any treatment in private facility or medical repatriation.
Andy Bridge, the Managing Director of A Place in the Sun, commented: “Although British nationals can only now spend 90 out of 180 days in Spain before having to apply for a visa, this is welcome clarification to holidaymakers, homeowners and would be property buyers.”
There was “equally good news” for UK state pensioners planning to make a permanent move to Spain with confirmation they can have their healthcare costs covered by the UK, via the S1 scheme.
Under this scheme, a person living in an EU country can apply for an S1 form when they begin to draw on their UK state pension.
This form provides holders with state healthcare entitlement which is paid for by the UK.
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Mr Bridge continued: “There is a lot of confusion surrounding this issue, but the UK and the EU have agreed this reciprocal healthcare arrangement continues.
“But 73 percent of our audience surveyed were unaware of this key benefit and in some instances, this has put people off moving to Spain.”
It was confirmed a British state pensioner moving to Spain receives the same level of free healthcare as their Spanish counterpart, once registered correctly.
This may exclude specialisms such as dentistry and orthopaedics that are not provided under the Spanish public system. They can also apply for a GHIC for use when visiting other EU countries.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson confirmed: “The agreement we have made with the European Union continues the flexibility for travellers accessing healthcare in the EU and ensures the costs of healthcare for certain groups including eligible pensioners are covered when they move to those countries.
“As we cautiously return to a more normal life and begin travelling again, I would encourage people to keep up to date with all the latest travel information and advice, and crucially continue to cover every base by taking out travel insurance.”
This news is likely to impact many retirees as there are around 460,000 British pensioners living in the EU.
The most recent retirement report from Blacktower Financial Management Group also showed European countries remain among the best options for British people looking to retire abroad.
In May, the company examined the best European countries for retirement, using weighted metrics of cost of living, crime rates, life expectancy, property prices, and population age.
Their findings placed Spain as the second best place for retirees, topped only by Finland.
However, in January 2021, additional insight from Salisbury House Wealth showed the number of UK pensioners living in the EU has fallen in recent months in the face of perceived Brexit uncertainty.
Tim Holmes, the Managing Director at Salisbury House Wealth, explained at the time how this could br problematic for British retirees.
“The last-minute Brexit deal will be a huge sigh of relief for British pensioners living in the EU,” he said.
“However, question marks remain over how this deal will unfold over the next few years.
“Many UK pensioners have already packed their bags and left the sunnier parts of Europe behind in the fear that further complications would arise as a result of the UK’s departure.
“British pensioners who are returning to the UK run the risk of facing higher living costs than destinations such as Spain, which they may not have factored into their retirement funds.
“Retirement plans may change course from time-to-time – it’s key that individuals stick to a savings plan so they have plenty of flexibility and most importantly, can achieve their dream retirement when they get there.”
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