Non-EU immigrants without health insurance should be banned from UK, says Ukip
‘Health tourism’ issue increasingly contentious with some putting cost at £200m
UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage: the party says hospitals do not want to act as immigration officials while the NHS is already buckling under the weight of administration
Foreigners coming to the United Kingdom should be required to take out private health insurance before being allowed in to prevent the National Health Service having to pick up the bill, the UK Independence Party has argued.
Under existing rules, foreigners who are not from an EU state, Iceland, Norway or Liechtenstein are supposed to pay for hospital treatment, bar emergency care; though many hospitals do not bill since they know they can be paid more easily by the NHS itself.
However, there is no agreement on how much such healthcare costs the taxpayers. Some quarters put the annual bill at £30 million, some at £200 million. The annual budget of the NHS is £120 billion.
“Many hospitals are overburdened with long waiting times and do not want to act as immigration officials while the NHS is already buckling under the weight of administration,” Tim Aker, UKIP’s head of policy. “Many trusts simply brush under the carpet these claims in order to cover up their liability to unpaid costs,” he said, adding that the private health insurance proposal – to cover both tourists and migrants – would be “a simple and effective” solution.
The “health tourism” issue is increasingly contentious in Britain. So far, the Department of Health is considering imposing a £200 on all applying for travel visas lasting for six months or more. Emergency treatment would still be free at the point of delivery to all, while migrants would be eligible for free NHS care once they had worked for five years and paid tax and national insurance on their income.