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Sep 15

Retiring abroad – healthcare

Reading Time: 3 mins

Access to good healthcare is vital once you move abroad, but services can vary widely from country to country. So check exactly what you’re entitled to before you go with our guide to retiring abroad and healthcare.

Retiring abroad

Retiring abroad - healthcareRetiring abroad is a stressful situation, especially when you have to sort out your accommodation and visa, but what about healthcare? In the UK we have a free healthcare system provided by the NHS, and private medical insurance is not a necessity. However, in some retirement destinations healthcare is of particular concern because you might have to pay high prices.

Although the UK has mutual healthcare agreements with many countries, these might not cover all your medical expenses – you may only be entitled to reduced-cost, rather than free, healthcare. What you can get may also be different depending on whether you’re classed as a visitor or a resident of that country.

Healthcare abroad for pensioners

UK pensioners who reside in another EU country are entitled to the same healthcare as a national of that country. However, check exactly what this entails – it may not be the same as the treatment you would get in the UK. For example, certain medications are not available in some countries. Services such as district nursing may be rare or non-existent. Privately-run alternatives may be costly, and the UK government won’t be able to help you pay for them.

Remember you must notify the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) of your move abroad so that your rights to healthcare can be transferred to your new country of residence.


Healthcare in European Economic Area (EEA) Countries

EEA - Retiring abroad - healthcareIf you’re going to move to a European Economic Area (EEA) country and receive a UK state pension you may be entitled to  healthcare paid for by the UK. In order to be entitled to this you’ll have to apply for a certificate of entitlement (S1/E121 form).

However, if you live permanently outside the EEA you won’t be covered for healthcare paid for by the UK and you won’t be entitled to use your UK-issued European Health Insurance Card to access healthcare abroad. You also won’t automatically be allowed to come back and use the NHS for free. Non-residents aren’t entitled to free NHS treatment, unless you can show evidence that you’re coming to live in the UK as your permanent home. NHS regulations are subject to change, so check for the most up-to-date information at their website.

For a full list of EEA countries click here.

Worried about your investments? Find out how you can make retirement savings at any age.

Healthcare before retirement

You might have more rights if you’re yet to retire. If you retire to another EC country before state retirement age, you can apply for a form E106, which will give you access to local healthcare for up to two and a half years. After that, however, you’ll have to get private insurance to cover you until state retirement age. Once you’re a UK pensioner, you and your dependants can get local healthcare by filling out a form E121.

Relevant forms

  • Form E106. If you retire to another EC country before state retirement age, you can apply for a form E106.
  • S1/E121 form. Certificate of entitlement and local healthcare. Get one from the International Pension Centre by calling 0191 218 7777.
  • Leaflet SA29. All about healthcare abroad, this should be essential (and thrilling) reading if you’re looking to retire to another EC country. Get it from the Pension Service.

See GOV.UK’s state pension page or get in touch with the International Pension Centre (0191 218 7777) for more information about relevant forms and queries.

See Retirement Matters for lots of useful advice on healthcare abroad. The government strongly advises you not to scrimp on health insurance – check you have a comprehensive policy that covers private medical and dental treatment, plus medical repatriation to the UK.

Before you go make sure you get expert advice – GOV.UK  is a good starting point.


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