Brits in France reassured – your healthcare will continue after December 31st

Brits in France who had been wrongly informed their healthcare cover would run out on December 31st have been given reassurance from the French health authorities.

Brits in France reassured - your healthcare will continue after December 31st
Photo: AFP

Several people who are already registered with the French healthcare system and have a carte vitale were alarmed to note their certificates of health cover all expired on December 31st.

When querying it, they were told that this was due to Brexit and local health offices were awaiting further instructions.

Healthcare has been a major concern for many British residents, particularly in 2019 when a no-deal exit loomed and thousands of British pensioners faced the prospect of having to either pay for expensive health insurance or lose health cover.

That threat receded once the UK exited with a deal, and the Withdrawal Agreement guarantees health cover for all British people already resident by December 31st for the rest of their lives.

READ ALSO What is the Withdrawal Agreement and does it cover me?

However, when Lot-et-Garonne resident Sue Jarvis went to download her attestation des droits – the certificate that shows you have health cover in France – she was alarmed to note that it gave her just three months' cover and expired on December 31st, 2020. Normally the attestation covers one years from the date it is downloaded.

She said: “We have a network of friends and one of them sent a round robin email on October 3rd to say that there might be a problem with Lot-et-Garonne and our carte vitales because suddenly an end date of December 31st 2020 for our attestations de droits had appeared on the Ameli website. I checked our own account and sure enough that is what I found.

“So I contacted Ameli through their messaging site was told that my documents indicated a limit date. When I enquired further I was told this was Brexit related and they were awaiting further information.”

Several other British residents, mostly pensioners who are covered by the S1 scheme, reported a similar issue.

As well as the problem of not being covered for any treatment required, proof of health cover is necessary to secure residency for some groups, including pensioners.

However after enquiries from The Local, a spokesman for assurance maladie, the French state healthcare system, reassured British residents that their cover will continue.

Communications Head Léo Leroy said the problem had arisen because of ministry guidance issued to local offices at an earlier stage in the Brexit negotiation process which instructed them to limit the date on attestations.

However this problem has now been rectified and new guidance has been issued.

He said: “Under Article 30, for persons who have been resident before December 31st 2020 and who continue to be in that situation after that date: the provisions of the European coordination regulations are applicable to them without any time limit, provided they continue to be in a cross-border situation.

“In the case described: a British national living in France before December 31st 2020. This person will continue to benefit from the right to French health insurance after December 31st 2020, as long as he or she resides in France.

“Since October 7th 2020, the Ministry has given new instructions: no longer limit the validity date of entitlement forms to insured persons whose link with the United Kingdom is prior to December 31st 2020. The validity of the form must now be set according to the duration of the situation (permanent residence, stay, secondment etc.).”

Although the Withdraw Agreement lays out that British people already legally resident in France by December 31st 2020 have their rights to residency and healthcare guaranteed, this is not the first time that British people have been incorrectly told their rights are expiring or expired.

In August a British man living in Moselle was incorrectly told by his local benefits office that his residency was about to expire while later in the summer job adverts appeared in ski resorts saying that British people could not apply due to the uncertainty over their status.

Speaking to The Local about the residency issue, Kalba Meadows from the citizens' rights group France Rights added: “We have heard of isolated cases around uninformed officials giving people the wrong information.

“The best thing for someone in that situation to do is to point to the French government Brexit website where it's clear that Brits aren't required to hold a carte de séjour until after the grace period [July 2021].”

You can also find full information on the situation with residency, healthcare, pensions and travel on our Preparing for Brexit section.



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‘We will be ready’ vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

Transport bosses have raised fears of long queues in British ports when the EU's new EES system comes into effect next year, but French border officials insist they will be ready to implement the new extra checks.

'We will be ready' vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

The EU’s new EES system comes into effect in 2023 and many people – including the boss of the Port of Dover and the former UK ambassador to France – have raised concerns that the extra checks will lead to travel chaos on the UK-France border, and see a repeat of the long queues experienced last summer.

Port of Dover CEO Doug Bannister told The Local that he feared “tailbacks out of the port and throughout Kent” because the new system could take up to 10 minutes to process a car with four passengers, as opposed to 90 seconds currently.

EXPLAINED What the EES system means for travel to France in 2023

But French border control have insisted that they will be ready, replying to questions from the European Commission with “Oui, La France sera prête” (yes, France will be ready).

French officials said they had already undertaken extension preparation and would begin test runs of the new system in French border posts at the end of this year.

document shared recently by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties, shows how countries are preparing. 

“France has prepared very actively and will be on schedule for an EES implementation in compliance with the EU regulation,” French authorities say.

“The French authorities have carried out numerous studies and analyses, in cooperation with infrastructure managers, to map passenger flows at each border crossing post… and evaluate the EES impact on waiting times,” the document says. 

However, despite the preparation, the French admit that long waits at the border remain a worry, adding: “the prospect of the impact of EES on waiting times at the borders worries infrastructure managers. The fact remains that fluidity remains a concern, and that exchanges are continuing with each border post manager to make progress on this point.”

The EES system is due to come into effect in May 2023 and will be applied at all EU external borders – find full details on how it works HERE.

However there has been particular concern about the France-UK border due to three things; the high volume of traffic (in total over 60 million passengers cross the border each year); the fact that many travel by car on ferries and the Eurotunnel (while the EES system seems more designed with foot passengers in mind); and the Le Touquet agreement which means that French border control agents work in the British ports of Dover and Folkestone and at London St Pancras station.

EES is essentially a more thorough passport checking process with passengers required to provide biometric information including fingerprints and facial scans – border checks will therefore take longer per passenger, and this could have a big effect at busy crossing points like Dover.

The UK’s former ambassador to France, Lord Ricketts, told The Local: “I think the EES, in particular, will be massively disruptive at the Channel ports.”

The EU consultation documents also revealed more details of how EES will work on a practical level for car passengers – those travelling by ferry or Eurotunnel to France – with border agents set to use computer tablets to gather biometric information like fingerprints so that passengers don’t have to get out of their cars.

READ ALSO France to use iPads to check biometric data of passengers from UK

Doug Bannister added that Dover agents were “awaiting an invitation” to France to see how the new systems will work.