The NHS just got much stricter for expats returning home to make the most of free healthcare and patients should expect to be asked questions about their residence status in the UK.
From the 6th April, any expat that resides outside of Europe that returns home for health treatment must have sufficient insurance or pay 150% of the costs. However, these costs are applicable only on hospital treatment, as appointments with GPs and accident and emergency treatment remain free. Treatment also remains free for those with a European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) and UK state pensioners living in the European Economic Area (EEA).
The reasoning behind these changes is that they will help to save the NHS £500 million a year by 2017/18. In addition to saving the NHS money, it is thought that NHS hospitals will receive an extra 25% on top of the cost of every procedure they perform for a patient with an Ehic.
Simply put, these changes mean that people who live outside the EEA, including former UK residents, should make sure they are covered by health insurance, unless an exemption applies to them. Exemptions include diplomats, members of the Armed Forces and war pensioners.The consequence for not having sufficient insurance means that you will be charged at 150% of the NHS national tariff for any care you receive. To give you an idea of costs, the NHS tariff price for a normal maternity birth is £2,188 and for a major hip operation with an intermediate stay in hospital it is £7,826.
There are some non-EEA countries that have a reciprocal agreement with the UK for free healthcare services, and British expats who live in those countries will also be exempt. A full list is available on nhs.uk.