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Pensioners living in Spain even though receiving UK pensions are entitled to free health care under the European Union reciprocal healthcare policy but need to be registered to obtain this. It will give them free prescriptions and access to both urgent and non urgent health care. Application must be made at the local INSALUD office to which you need to take the original and a copy of your passport and something that shows the address where you are living. You will then be issued with a provisional social security number.

Proposed changes to the law for pensioners

It is becoming increasingly common for British State pensioners to divide their time between the UK and some other EU country.

Under European law, the health care costs of such an individual remain the responsibility of the member state paying the pension (unless the pensioner receives a pension from both countries in which case the country of residence is responsible). In many EU countries, the pensioner may choose to register as resident in that member state, in which case they can receive treatment in that country and the UK government pays an agreed sum annually to the member state to fulfil its obligation to fund that treatment. While they are in the UK, they are entitled only to treatment that arose during their stay. Registration as resident is not compulsory, and indeed in some EU countries is not an option.

However, many pensioners who could register as resident choose not to do so, because they do not consider themselves as resident in the other member state, but as UK residents merely on an extended visit to the other member state. Consequently, they have to pay for any treatment they receive abroad and many choose instead to return to the UK for regular treatment. The problem here is that these unregistered pensioners often fall foul of the charging rules because of the way the twelve-month residency exemption is calculated. The Regulations stipulate that only absences of up to three months can be disregarded when calculating whether someone has been living in the UK for more than twelve months prior to the treatment commencing. As a result pensioners who have been living in another EU member state for more than three months find that they return ‘home’ for treatment only to be told that they have to pay because they are not ordinarily resident and do not meet any of the exemption criteria. This is clearly unfair when, under EU rules, the UK should be funding treatment. In the light of this the British government is proposing to introduce a new regulation that provides specific exemption from charges for NHS hospital treatment to anyone who:

1. is in receipt of a specified British state pension; and,
2. is living in the UK for not less than six months and in another EU member state for not more than six months per year; and,
3. is not registered as resident in another EU member state.

See also
Living in Spain
Visitors to Spain - E111/E112
Working in Spain
Money Matters

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