How to deal with health tourism

I’m going to warn you in advance, this article will be a bit of a rant. Health tourism has become an election issue. The assumption is that the only way we can deal with people entering the UK solely use the NHS, while not to contributing to the British economy, is to restrict access to the NHS or place harsh controls on immigration. I think this is wrong. I believe that the solution is simple.


We have the best healthcare system in the world. Some may debate this, and the occasional scandal may force us to question it, but the fact that every Briton is entitled to comprehensive healthcare free at the point of use, while we never need to worry about entitlement or insurance; it is unparalleled, and something we really should be proud of. Perhaps surprisingly, our system costs the government significantly less per person than it costs the government and individual combined in the two notable free market healthcare systems of Switzerland and the USA. We should be proud of our NHS.


The problem so far as I can tell does not relate to those outside the European Union. We already have a very comprehensive visa system ensuring that the vast majority of economic migrants from outside of the EU find work. There is a period in which non-EU migrants must either pay for some healthcare or be covered by an insurance plan. And of course, non-EU migrants must leave at the end of their visa should they not meet the requirements to stay.


The issue comes from intra-EU migration. EU citizens are entitled to the health and social benefits of the citizens of the EU state they migrate to. Again, there is a lead in. For those staying less than six months, they need to have an EU health insurance card, which they are entitled to if they pay for some health insurance in their member state. Those staying more than six months are entitled to an EU health insurance card from the NHS, and free NHS care.


Where it may be a bit unreasonable to believe that a lot of people are coming to the UK and waiting months on end to obtain a health insurance card simply to have an operation, there are some ways to get around this. For example, if you’re a student or in some other way can prove that you will be living in the UK for at least a year, you may be entitled to a card. Some get around it like that. Others simply buy cheap health insurance and come to the UK to receive healthcare that their insurance doesn’t cover in their home countries.


This is easily fixed, but it is fixed through integration rather than division. Instead of isolating Britain or risking the health of hardworking people with good intentions, why don’t we make Europe a better place? Why don’t we stand up and tell our MEPs to stop going on about the size of light bulbs or strength of hoovers and do something REALLY important for once? If we all get on board, we can fix health tourism by making the whole of Europe adopt the British model of healthcare.