7 Jul, 2008 @ 16:07
1 min read

Free healthcare clampdown


British pensioners could be about to lose free healthcare under new Spanish rules

THOUSANDS of British expatriates will be forced to foot the bill for medical treatment after authorities announced plans to remove their right to free healthcare.

The provincial authorities in Valencia are changing the law because they claim elderly people who have set up homes in the region are placing too high a burden on the health system.

The move has prompted fury in the expatriate community on the Mediterranean coast.

The group feels it is being victimised by the Spanish, following years of clashes with authorities over the country’s planning laws.

Many people retire to Spain believing they will be covered by the country’s medical system.

Now they will be forced to take out expensive private insurance.

Bob Houliston, 71, a retired diplomat who is now president of the Claro political party, which represents the 20,000 expat residents of the Orihuela area near Alicante, said the move could have “serious consequences”.

“The timing of this decision could not have been worse,” he said. “Now is not the time to cause individual hardship and widespread uncertainty.

“It can only add to the image problems the region has to contend with.”

He insisted that the UK must now find a compromise with the Valencian authorities.

In 2002 the provincial government offered free healthcare to all expatriates of all EU nationalities in a bid to get foreign investment in the area’s property market, which at that time was booming.

The market is now experiencing a similar downturn to that being seen in the UK.

The ruling only applies to people who took early retirement and moved to Spain, mainly aged in their fifties.

Older retirees and individuals on long-term incapacity benefit are unaffected, as they are covered under a reciprocal healthcare agreement with the UK.

A spokesman for the regional health ministry said: “It is costing us an extra €1bn annually to look after a million new residents as well as long-stay tourists, and our services are at saturation point.

“Some come to Spain to have their heart operation or hip replacement here at a better standard and more quickly than in their own country.”

The expatriates however, hope to fight the ruling. In France last year, expatriates successfully had a similar plan partially overturned, so it now only applies to new arrivals.


  1. The problem is that many expats wanted to live in Spain while maintaining their residence in the UK. Under UK rules if you dont work then your social security stamp is paid by the government. In Spain the system is that you either work and pay your stamp, or you have to sign on as unemployed, or you pay a lump sum to purchase health care rights. Under spanish law non members of the health system are only entitled to emergency care, other treatment has to be paid for. The UK nationals can get a form in britain thet guarantees treatment paid for by the NHS but only if they don’t reside in Spain. This matter is similar to the “clever clogs” who drive a british registered car with no tax paid and are surprised when they find that they are uninsured (a gaoling offence) in Spain.

  2. Interesting, in that the UK NHS has just (1st July, 2008) announced that UK residents can travel to other EU countries for medical services; treatment which by definitial should mean that Ex-pats can aquire medical services in their country of residence under the NHS just as if they were in the UK… The reason for this move is to apparently, take pressure of the NHS. Last week a Rumainian teenager made the national newspapers because she was treated (given an abortion) under the NHS in the – UK.

  3. That would seem only fair. There are too many people wanting to have both feet in two camps. You make the move to Spain and become a resident then you lose your right to the British Health Care system. I agree that under an emergency any EU member should be treated but it stops there.

    As far as the Rumanian do you know all the facts? It could have been a life or death situation.

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