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Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Healthcare for travellers under threat from Brexit

I some wonder what those MPs, MEPs and newspapers, who supported us leaving the European Union thought we were signing up for. Did some of them really think we could have our cake and eat it, that we could leave the single market and all the European institutions we have been a part of for 43 years and still enjoy the benefits? If so then they have wilfully mislead voters.

The latest panic is a case in point as the Independent reports that Jeremy Hunt has been urged to intervene in Brexit talks to stop British people from losing their right to free healthcare on the continent. Naturally, and quite rightly, there are warnings that changes could prevent those with long-term conditions from leaving the country at all.

The paper says that medical charities have warned that 29,000 kidney dialysis patients who need to attend hospital every other day would face insurmountable costs of more than £800 a week if the European Health Insurance Card, a perk of EU membership that entitles UK residents to the same subsidised care as local patients, goes, effectively putting holidays and rest breaks out of reach for people on ordinary incomes.

And so, 16 MEPs, from the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP, Green, and Plaid Cymru parties, have called on the health secretary to “stand up for dialysis patients, who on top of struggling to comprehend their diagnosis, now risk losing the freedom that the EHIC card permits them”:

“Private travel insurance does not provide a viable alternative to EHIC card for dialysis patients,” they wrote.

“Insurance companies will not cover the treatment, as a pre-existing condition. The cost of paying privately for dialysis sessions in the EU is up to €1,000 (£880) a week depending on the circumstances and procedures used.”

This is just one of many joint arrangements that will disappear once we leave the EU, and yet what did we expect? It is impossible to negotiate an exemption for everything. The only way we can safeguard these benefits is to abandon Brexit and stay in the EU. When will politicians wake up to that reality?
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