With less than a month before the end of the Brexit transition, there is no sign of a replacement for the European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) that the government promised.
But The Independent has confirmed that millions of British residents will qualify for free or very low-cost medical treatment from 2021.
All EU nationals who live in the UK are entitled to a new Ehic issued by the British government. They will receive free cards for use from New Year’s Day 2021.
“If you’re living in the UK before 31 December 2020, you’ll be able to apply for a new UK Ehic in due course.” the government has told them.
“Make sure you take out travel insurance with medical cover for your trip.
“You may not have access to free emergency medical treatment and could be charged for your healthcare if you do not get health cover with your travel insurance.”
UK holidaymakers and business travellers have benefited from reciprocal health care for nearly half a century: first known as the E111, and since 2005 as the Ehic. It provides emergency medical treatment on the same terms as local people – either free or at very low cost.
Successive ministers have long claimed that the government wants a continuation of the health-care arrangements. In 2017, the then-Brexit secretary, David Davis, said: “We are looking to see if we can get a continuation of the Ehic scheme as it now exists.”
But 53 months after the EU referendum, there is still no sign of a deal being done.
Speaking in Parliament on 20 November, the health minister, Lord Bethell, said: “Future reciprocal health-care arrangements are subject to ongoing negotiation with the EU.