British expatriates in France face a stark choice after French president Nicolas Sarkozy announced he is to withdraw state medical treatment from retired EU expats under 65.
France is a favourite destination for early retirement, but those left without cover may now have to choose between taking out expensive private medical insurance and giving up their dream.
This is compounded, said Prudential’s Richard Leeson, by the fact that full PMI cover was previously outlawed in France, with contributions to the state system compulsory. As a result, many expats may have cancelled existing PMI policies before moving to France, and now face the expense and difficulty of re-signing when they are older and, quite possibly, in worse health, facing exclusions for pre-existing conditions that would have been covered under their previous policy.
The changes do not apply to expats working in France and contributing to the state system, nor to expats who have reached statutory retirement age, as they are covered by reciprocal social security agreements. The new rules will come into force from the end of March 2008, if lobbying from Westminster has no effect. Health insurance provider Bupa has suggested those likely to be affected should act quickly, and also counselled that anyone considering moving abroad should take out medical cover rather than relying on state provision that could be withdrawn on a political whim.
Tim Slee, head of European sales at Bupa International, commented: “Those affected by the reform will have to weigh up whether they can afford to pay for their own treatment should they fall ill or have an accident, which could run into thousands of euros. The alternative is to investigate private medical insurance options. While for some, this may not have been a consideration when they first moved to France, it could provide a welcome safeguard against costly medical treatment in light of the government's proposed healthcare reforms.”
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