Our NHS (not yours)
The UK has introduced a healthcare surcharge for immigrants from non-EEA areas. Adults have to pay £200 a year for access to the NHS whether or not they make use of it; students have to pay £150. UK citizens who want to bring their partner to the country must apply for a 30-month residency visa: the NHS surcharge on this is £500, almost doubling the previous cost of the visa (£601). Skilled migrants can be stuck with bills of more than £1000. An applicant with a dependent spouse and three children could be charged £5000. This has to be paid up front – and it doesn’t include any of the rest of the cost of the visa, lawyer’s fees or national insurance contributions. Also on the agenda is a clampdown on temporary visitor visas (tourists, business travellers etc.) who will soon be charged 150 per cent of the cost of delivery for any healthcare services they use.
The reforms are part of the Immigration Act passed last year. It also includes cutting the number of immigration decisions that can be appealed, forcing landlords to check their tenants’ immigration status, and a clarification, in case the courts were confused, that ‘the right to a family life is not to be regarded as absolute and unqualified.’ The government has claimed that use of the NHS by non-EEA workers and students costs £950 million a year, and it plans to recoup £200 million of this with the surcharge. The reforms, it says, are ‘focused on stopping illegal migrants using public services to which they are not entitled’ – as though all migrants, even those with visas, are illegal. For everyone who is given a visa, the costs are at a ‘competitive level’ (competitive with what is unclear). ‘We want international visitors to feel welcome to use the NHS,’ the health minister Lord Howe explained, ‘provided they pay for it.’
Ukip has a simpler solution to deter all but the wealthiest immigrants: force all visitors to the UK to take out private health insurance. Only after paying national insurance on top of this for five years will they be allowed to make use of the NHS. The government’s plan allows it to make exemptions that suit it, such as for intra-company transfers – one of the few types of immigrant who could afford to pay the charge in the first place.