The announcement from the UK government on Monday that pensioners would only be covered for six months after a no-deal Brexit sparked consternation among the many British retirees who live in France.
The healthcare costs of British pensioners in France are currently covered by the UK government under the S1 scheme, but on Monday British Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that in the case of a no-deal Brexit, the UK would only keep covered the costs for six months after exit date, unless a separate deal was reached with the French government.
The announcement sparked some questioning from ctiizens' rights group Remain in France Together (RIFT) and in response the British Embassy in Paris has released extra information that it hopes will calm fears.
The key is that the six month limit only applies if Britain and France cannot reach a bilateral agreement on covering healthcare costs for each other's citizens who live abroad.
And although detailed negotiations have not yet begun, the UK government says it is hopeful of securing agreement.
“In the absence of a wider deal, the UK has proposed to France that we maintain the current reciprocal healthcare arrangements until at least December 31st 2020.
“We are pushing for France to agree to this as soon as possible. Under such an arrangement the UK would continue to pay France for the healthcare costs for UK state pensioners (and other S1 holders) living in France, and for UK residents visiting France.
“The UK has introduced legislation which would allow us to do this. The UK Government is very keen to agree an arrangement with France and is pressing for technical discussions to commence as soon as possible.”
France has already stated in its no-deal Brexit ordonance published in April that it will continue to cover healthcare for British pensioners in France for two years after Brexit – although this is based on the principle of reciprocal arrangements.
Whoever ends up covering the costs – it's important that British pensioners make sure they're registered within the French system.
The embassy added: “In a situation where we do not have an arrangement in place with France, the UK would provide support to people living in France that are affected by this change, allowing them time to register with the French system or to make other arrangements.
“UK insured would have six months to register if they decided they wanted to remain in France, and the UK Government would also cover healthcare costs during the registration period should these not be covered.”
Mike Harlow, from citizens rights group RIFT, said: “I think what this does is help allay fears that the UK government are trying to do something, but it does depend upon the French authorities agreeing.
“My main concern is that UK citizens in France understand that they are eligible to join the French healthcare system after living here legally for three months through PUMa.
“Those with a carte vitale through S1 are already in the system and it is a matter of transferring to PUMa. There may well be costs incurred through social charges, but there will be cover.”
For more on PUMa, how to register for it and why it might involve incurring extra charges, click here.