New Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill (UK)

UPDATE : second reading is today 14 November 2018. Research briefing is here.

The UK Government introduced yesterday (26th October 2018) a Brexit Bill on the matter of international arrangements for healthcare once the UK has left the EU. The Bill and its Explanatory Notes are here.

The Bill provides the Secretary of State with powers to fund and arrange healthcare outside the UK, to give effect to healthcare agreements between the UK and other countries, territories or international organisations, such as the European Union (EU), and make provision in relation to data processing, which is necessary to underpin these arrangements and agreements.

The Bill was introduced as a result of the decision to leave the EU and is intended to enable the Government to respond to the wider range of possible outcomes of EU Exit in relation to reciprocal healthcare including the implementation of new reciprocal healthcare agreements.

A couple of aspects to note :

(1) The EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill (not yet lodged, and dependent on a deal being reached between the UK and the EU) would allow the UK to continue reciprocal healthcare during the Implementation/Transition Period (as provided for by the Withdrawal Agreement) following Exit day (and after the implementation period for those people covered by the Withdrawal Agreement).

But, it does not support long-term arrangements covering the general UK population after the Implementation Period. Further, the powers in the EU (Withdrawal) Act would not be sufficient for the UK to make provision in the event the UK does not reach agreement with the EU, but wishes to arrange for healthcare overseas for UK citizens, either on a unilateral basis or by means of bilateral agreements with individual countries.

(2) So the Bill provides the Secretary of State with powers which are necessary to arrange for the provision of healthcare overseas and to fund this, after the UK leaves the EU. The powers are required both in a deal and in a no deal scenario, and go beyond the EU sphere, to allow the Secretary of State to implement any new agreements on reciprocal healthcare which the UK puts in place with both EU and non-EU states should this be part of a global strategy.

(3) The powers enable the Secretary of State to address the essential matters relating to healthcare overseas, including defining individual entitlements to healthcare, and operational and administrative matters, including data sharing where necessary to facilitate treatment. This also includes being able to reimburse other states for healthcare costs, and to recover health care costs from them.