People, Travel

EU Health Tourism Costing United Kingdom Billions

EU Health Tourism Costing United Kingdom BillionsEU Health Tourism Costing United Kingdom Billions

Britain’s Vote Leave campaign, which is pushing for the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, has claimed that the island nation loses $1 billion (£723 million) per year on treating EU citizens.

Gisela Stuart, the chair of Vote Leave and a Labour MP, said the campaign’s new data showed the UK “was getting a bad deal” from the rest of Europe when it came to the reimbursement of medical costs, adding, “Health tourism from the EU has cost us billions,” according to British media.

Figures released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request show that since 2008, the UK has paid $8.8 billion (£6.18 billion) to other EU member states for the treatment of British citizens in the EU, but received just $578 million (£405 million) from other EU countries for the cost of treating their citizens in the UK, a gap of $8.2 billion (£5.78 billion), the Belfast Telegraph reported.

The deficit works out at $1 billion a year or $2.85 million a day.

Responding to Vote Leave’s figures, a Department of Health spokesman said: “This government is determined to make sure our NHS isn’t abused – our tough new measures to clamp down on migrants accessing the NHS are expected to recover more than $710 million (£500 million) a year by 2018 and we’re extending charges further to other parts of the NHS including A&E (accident and emergency).

 “We pay more out than we receive partly because a far greater number of British pensioners live in other EEA [European Economic Area] countries,” The Guardian reported.

James McGrory, the chief campaign spokesman of Britain Stronger in Europe, said: “I congratulate Vote Leave for their honesty in admitting that they would leave British holidaymakers out of pocket by forcing them to cover the cost of treatment in EU countries.

“Falling ill away from home is worrying enough, and the European health insurance card allows British families to access the best available care without having to worry about the costs.”

The UK is set to hold a referendum on whether to leave or remain in the EU on June 23.