British pensioners in France urged not to panic after Brexit healthcare ‘betrayal’

The announcement that the British government will cover pensioners' healthcare costs in the event of a no-deal Brexit has sparked anger and confusion in France, but campaigners spell out why there's no need to panic. Yet.

British pensioners in France urged not to panic after Brexit healthcare 'betrayal'
Photo: AFP
The pledge to cover healthcare costs for those on the S1 scheme for six months after a no-deal was labelled a “massive betrayal of Brits in Europe” and “a travesty of justice”.
Kalba Meadows from France Rights campaign group told the Local: “People really need to stand up and protest this – we need to see and hear an outcry of anger.
“I've been through a rollercoaster of emotions in the last three years but this has made me more angry than anything else because it's targeting the most vulnerable.
The pledge also includes a warning that British pensioners in the EU must register for healthcare locally within six months of the UK's departure.
As well as causing much anger the UK government's announcement has also caused confusion among British pensioners in France and left more questions unanswered.
This is partly due to the fact that the French government has already passed a law that guarantees health cover for Brits in France for two years in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Although that decree is dependent on Britain providing reciprocal treatment to French in the UK.
France Rights Meadows says: “We don't know how those two things – the UK statement and the French ordonnance – tie up.”

“We don't know – and this is really important – whether the UK government is continuing to seek permanent bilateral agreements on health care with the various EU Member States that would continue reciprocal health care arrangements on an ongoing basis.

“We don't know whether France is likely to reduce its two years health care cover in the light of the UK statement.

“We don't know exactly what S1 holders in France will be required to do – will they have to make an application to join PUMa, and if so when? Or will the switch, if and when there is one, happen automatically?

“And we still don't know whether, under the health care provisions of the ordonnance, cotisations to PUMa and/or social charges on pension income would be payable.

“In other words, we don't know very much at all!”

How to get a carte vitale in France and why you need one

Health insurance in France – what you need to know about a mutuelle

But Meadows says despite the anger many people will have, for the moment there is no need to panic.
“First of all, if there IS a deal, reciprocal health care for life is included and your S1 rights will continue without interruption.
“And secondly, if there is no deal, and even if the S1 scheme falls away after six months or after December 31st 2020, those of us in France are relatively lucky, as everyone who has lived here legally for at least there months is eligible to join the universal health care system, PUMa.”
You can find more details on the PUMa system here.
Justine Wallington from Remain in France Together (RIFT) said the announcement was “cruel” but believed it was posturing by the British government.
She told The Local: “We are being used again but I don't think there's any substance in this – yet more posturing.
“British residents in France should be confident they will have ongoing medical care whatever happens.” 
Mike Harlow from RIFT added: “We have contacted the embassy to see if this is now government policy rather than previous statements they have made.”
The UK government said letters will soon be sent out to the 180,000 citizens in the EU on the S1 scheme.
The letter will inform them of “the necessary steps they need to take, which include registering for residency and applying for local healthcare schemes”.
The UK government said: “To access this support after the UK leaves the EU, people should contact the NHS Business Services Authority (NHS-BSA) to provide them with the healthcare provider’s details, so that the BSA can arrange for the healthcare provider to invoice the UK Government directly.”

Member comments

  1. While I think I understand the inter reaction between Carte Vitale and Mutuelles I do not understand where PUM (previously CMU?) comes into the equation. Any helpful suggestions?
    Andrew Theaker

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France may cut Channel islands ferry service after post-Brexit collapse in visitor numbers

Visits to the Channel islands from France have halved since Brexit, and French local authorities say they may be forced to cut the regular ferry service, asking for the passport requirement to be waived for French visitors.

France may cut Channel islands ferry service after post-Brexit collapse in visitor numbers

Travel to and from the Channel islands – which are British crown dependancies – has reduced significantly since Brexit, when passports became a requirement for those travelling in and out of the islands and their ports.

Now the president of the local authorities in the Manche département of France has asked that passport requirements be lifted, with hopes of increasing travel to and from the islands.

Jean Morin told Ouest France that there has been a “considerable reduction in the number of passengers on routes between the Channel ports and the islands” and as a result the ferry service between France and the islands was seriously in deficit.

“On these lines, we will never make money, but we cannot be in deficit”, explained the Morin. 

He added that if a solution is not found by the deadline of May 1st, 2023, then local authorities will stop funding the shipping company DNO, which runs the Manche Îles Express ferry service.

“If the passport requirement is not lifted by then, we will have no choice but not to renew the service contract for 2024-2025”, Morin told Ouest France.

Only around half of French people have a passport, since the ID card issued to all adults is sufficient to travel within the EU. 

READ MORE: Ask the Expert: How Brexit has changed the rules on pensions, investments and bank accounts for Brits in France

DNO re-launched operations in April and since then, the company, and by extension the département – who plays a large role in funding it via a public service delegation – has been losing significant funds.

According to Franceinfo, the number of passengers has been cut in half since passport requirements were introduced. Franceinfo estimates that for one ticket for one passenger costing €30, the département spends €200.

According to Morin, the ideal solution would be to require a simple ID for tourists seeking to take just day-long or weekend-long stays on the islands – which reportedly represents at least 90 percent of the boats’ usual passengers.

“The Jersey government is working hard on the issue and is waiting for an agreement from London and the European Union. There is the possibility that things could move quickly”, Morin told Franceinfo on Tuesday.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, boats going to and from the French mainland carried at least 110,000 people per year. In 2022, only 40,000 passengers made the journey, Olivier Normand, the sales manager of Manche Îles Express, told Actu France.

Normand had expected the decline, however. He told Actu France that the company had taken a survey, which found that almost half (between 40 and 50 percent) of their clientele did not have a passport.