Brussels is holding out on the government’s hopes of continuing membership of the European health insurance scheme post-Brexit.
The UK may be forced to set up its own healthcare insurance for tourists holidaying in European countries if Brussels plans to limit the scope of current rules.
British negotiators want a continuation of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme, which gives tourists the right to state-provided healthcare in European Economic Area (EEA) countries, and covers EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The EHIC also applies to Switzerland.
But European Commission negotiators are understood to favour more limited and specific validity for the EHIC scheme after Brexit.
Brexit Secretary David Davis confirmed last month that the UK was seeking a continuation of the EHIC scheme but said if it could not get one ‘then we will provide one unilaterally’.
The EHIC scheme covers treatment that is medically necessary for tourists until they return home and is provided on the same basis that residents in the country they are visiting receive healthcare.
Therefore British tourists can access either free treatment or healthcare at a reduced cost, depending on the rules in the country they are visiting.