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Healthcare in UK > NHS and UK Health Insurance

NHS and UK Health Insurance

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Summary: Are you eligible for coverage under UK's National Health Service (NHS)? Do you also need expat health insurance? This article provides an overview.

Health Insurance in the UK - Are Expats Eligible for Coverage by the NHS?

Expats in the U.K. that are working there can become eligible for coverage under the National Health Service.

Others will need expat health insurance

Here are a few health care tips from expats already in the UK (taken from our UK expat forum):

  • Get your health care sorted out and ask HR about added medical coverage. Many companies offer supplemental health care as a benefit, but some are cutting this out of their benefits plans. You are automatically covered under NHS, but for the first year of residency, you are limited to walk-ins and hospital emergency rooms. Once you live here for a year, you can register with a proper heath care facility and get a primary care physician, but until then, you have very limited choice of doctors and specialty care. This may be important for your children particularly.
  • Consider keeping a health insurance policy in the U.S. for major illnesses. The NHS health care system here is not as bad as people make it out to be, but the U.S. is still better for high end care. It is good to have the option of returning to the U.S. for extremely complicated issues.
  • Get caught up on all heath visits, tests, eye exams, dentist visits, etc. before you leave. The rules for tests are different here, so for instance, women get mammograms every 3 years, not every year. NHS does not really have the concept of an annual physical. Basically, you go to the doctor when you have something wrong. You are covered for annual physicals however, when you have the extra health insurance coverage. You can, of course, get a physical any time you wish, but you pay extra for it if you are not covered.

Also note that when you are covered by NHS, a GP will be a gatekeeper that must refer you to specialists. Long waits can occur for these specialists, and for test and procedures that are not considered to be urgent. Having supplemental insurance gives some expats peace of mind to avoid these if needed. NHS provides information about NHS waiting times.

The NHS in the UK determines eligibility in large part by whether or not you are from a European Economic Area country or Switzerland.

Here are some explanations of what overseas visitors and expats from EEA and Switzerland in the U.K. can expect to receive in terms of NHS benefits. Here is information for expats from outside the EEA

Here is Guidance on overseas visitors hospital charging regulations.

The NHS Choices provides lots of official information and health care information.

PLEASE NOTE THAT REGULATIONS CAN CHANGE AT ANY TIME. CONTACT NHS FOR THE MOST UP-TO-DATE INFORMATION.

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000. Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Some of Joshua's more popular articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and 5 Best Places to Live in Spain. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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First Published: Oct 24, 2010

Expatriate Health Insurance

Get a quote for expat health insurance in UK from our partner, Cigna Global Health.
Get a Quote

Healthcare in the UK

Expats in the U.K. are able to utilize the public health care system, which is managed by the NHS. Many expats want to have private health insurance to help reduce wait times and several other reasons. Read for more details on how to navigate the system.

Expats in the U.K. are able to utilize the public health care system, which is managed by the NHS. Many expats want to have private health insurance to help reduce wait times and several other reason...

Answer Questions about Healthcare in UK

Help others moving to UK by answering a set of questions about health insurance, public healthcare in UK, prescription medicine, quality of medical care and emergency services.

Having-a-Baby-In-UKExpats Talk about What it's Like Having a Baby in UK

Read recent baby reports submitted for Chipping Norton and York.

If you're an expat parent who had a baby abroad, write a report about your childbirth experiences to help other expecting expat parents.

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