At the moment British nationals who retire to the EU have their healthcare covered by the NHS but in the event of a no deal this will no longer be the case, the UK government revealed in a technical notice published on Tuesday.
The news will no doubt be met with fear and worry among the 190,000 British pensioners who are retired in France, Spain, Italy, Germany and other EU countries.
It is believed that the situation could lead to an increased burden on the NHS due to the fact that British retirees may decide it's better to return to the UK for treatment.
Currently, pensioners can benefit from the “S1” reciprocal healthcare rules if they retire in the EU, EEA countries or Switzerland.
The S1 certificate helps pensioners and their dependants access healthcare in France.
“If you have an S1 certificate, it will be valid until 29 March 2019. After this date, the certificate may not be valid, depending on decisions by member states,” the government said.
Sue Wilson, chair of Bremain in Spain campaign group blasted the change.
“All along we've been told our healthcare is protected. This is a big shock to everyone and our members are really scared,” she said.
Online support groups for Britons in EU countries have been bombarded with posts in recent weeks from pensioners worried anxious about the future of their health care. Some are undergoing cancer treatment and believe any upheaval caused by Brexit could mean life or death for them.
The UK government, which previously said it is cheaper to pay EU countries to look after Britons’ medical bills than have them return home, is attempting to secure bilateral deals with EU member states regarding healthcare however none have been agreed so far.
The technical notice advises Britons in living in European countries to sign up for the local healthcare system which, in many cases, will mean paying for treatment.