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UK mulls charging migrants and tourists for healthcare

Published time: December 30, 2013 17:37
AFP Photo / Adrian Dennis

AFP Photo / Adrian Dennis

Migrants and international tourists will be forced to pay for otherwise free healthcare in the UK under new ‘healthcare tourism’ crackdown plans announced by the government on Monday.

The plans indicate that migrants and visitors to the country would have to fund emergency surgery in hospital accident and emergency departments, as well as their own minor surgery which might take place in doctors’ offices.

Health ministers say that while nobody will be turned away, there will be a bill sent to tourists from overseas at a later date. Whether someone is from overseas will be determined by the presentation of a passport, or an NHS number upon arrival or once they have stabilized.

A full implementation plan will be developed by March.

“Having a universal health service free at the point of use rightly makes us the envy of the world, but we must make sure the system is fair to the hard-working British taxpayers who fund it,” Health Minister Lord Howe stated, according to the Telegraph.

However, Labour MPs declared that the Government was “asking doctors and nurses to act as surrogate immigration officials.”

The announcement comes a day after a government report was published, stating that more than 300 mothers to be had been stopped at Gatwick Airport as they were not allowed to fly; the majority of airlines state they will not carry women who are more than 36 weeks pregnant.

The majority of the mothers-to-be had to be taken to hospitals to give birth courtesy of the NHS.

“Health tourism” has been the subject of ongoing debate in the UK, with fears heightening in the knowledge that restrictions on migrants entering the country from Romania and Bulgaria will loosen as of January 1.

Britain has been introducing increasingly harsh measures against migrants to the country, with mobile billboards calling on illegal immigrants to ‘go home or face arrest’. A new test introduced in January decreed that migrants wanting citizenship should have knowledge of Monty Python, while in March it emerged that immigrants entering Britain may be forced to pay a fee. A visa bond plan was scrapped in November on account of mass opposition.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced that jobless immigrants would have UK government support payments taken away after six months, and that migrants would be blocked from Britain’s social housing waiting lists until they have been in the country for up to five years.