I was shocked to read in a recent report that the UK pays up on time for the treatment received by British nationals abroad, yet the record for recovering funds for treatment of overseas visitors in the UK, either from individuals or their governments, is abysmal. When I raised the matter with the Health Minister I discovered that this is not down to other countries failing to cough up, rather that we don’t even send the bill.
For those overseas visitors who do present an insurance card, the NHS recovers the cost but for many other overseas visitors, either Europeans without cards or those from further afield, there is no system in place to ensure that hospitals and GP surgeries actually charge for the service, or even bother to check who they are admitting. This lack of proper auditing is also leading to a large amount of debts from other countries and individuals being written off, to the tune of some £40 million per year.
This is why I have sponsored a Bill to be presented this week in Parliament which would require the NHS to record and audit the cost of treatment of individuals not entitled to free healthcare and those who use insurance cards from other countries. Healthcare in the UK is not free, it is paid for by British taxpayers, and I hope that this Bill will be the first step in making sure that those who aren’t eligible for care pay for it.