Brexit is unfortunately causing a lot of uncertainty among the British community of expats living in Spain. One of the main aspects feared by the British is losing their EU and Spanish healthcare. According to the WHO, the Spanish healthcare system is the 7th most efficient worldwide. For this reason, preparing for the least favourable scenario – for example, the no-deal Brexit – is the best way to play it safely.
Living in Spain after Brexit
If Brexit finally takes place, it will be effective on 29 March 2019, followed by a transitional period ending on 31 December 2020. Last January, British Prime Minister Theresa May said that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. The bad news is this scenario can force many Brits to return and the NHS will need to be prepared for this. In fact, statistics show that Brits have already started to move back, since in March the number of citizens living in Spain had dropped to 240,785 (from 387,892 in the last years).
The good news is on 31 July, Spain recovered the universal health care for urgent cases. However, this only applies to emergencies, but not to regular visits to the doctor, neither to operations which can be programmed. Only EU citizens are entitled to complete medical treatment. If Britain leaves the EU, British expats living in Spain will lose their permanent residential status and therefore their right to medical care – unless they acquire Spanish nationality.
Healthcare between European Union countries is based on solidarity
Therefore, even if you haven’t worked and paid taxes, you can take your pension and social welfare benefits to another member state, as long as you become a permanent resident. In the same way, the EHIC card covers you during shorter stays. So as many British people do, you can have worked all your life in the UK and then move to Spain after retiring, without losing any of their rights. With a “no-deal Brexit”, this wouldn’t be possible anymore. Only people living permanently and working in Spain will continue to keep their rights. The main reason for this is that people who work also contribute to the national social welfare. To access the Spanish system, British people need to ask for the S1 form at the NHS and show it at their corresponding “Seguridad Social” office.
What to do if you aren’t entitled to Spanish healthcare
Spain does have a special pay-in programme for residents who don’t have a right to medical care: the so-called “Convenio Especial”. This public insurance scheme, which doesn’t include prescriptions, costs €157 a month for people over 65 and €60 if younger than 65. It is only possible to apply for it if you don’t have Spanish neither UK medical care.
In other words, the outcome of the Brexit negotiations remains uncertain and there are still many interests involved. As things are, it is difficult to predict how it will evolve. The truth is, each case is different and needs to be analysed in detail. For example, having Spanish residency will not guarantee the same rights as a person who has Spanish citizenship.
For any other questions regarding your healthcare and social welfare in Spain, feel free to reach to the Legal & Tax Help lawyers and tax advisors in Malaga, Spain.
If you are planning to move to Spain from the UK, we recommend reading our checklist for preparing your paperwork and meeting your tax obligations in the following section.
Author: Rosa Vega Delgado
Biographical Info: Rosa Vega Delgado is a lawyer specialised in property law, property conveyancing and Labour law.
Author: Rosana Tejada
Biographical Info: Rosana Tejada Crespo is a tax advisor holding a Master’s Degree in International Taxation. She specialises in companies and freelancers, tax regulations concerning foreign employees (Beckham Law), non-resident tax, inheritance tax and Spanish income tax. She is one of the founders of Legal & Tax Help (2000), which comprises a group of English speaking solicitors, economists and architects.