Annual charge paid by migrants for using the NHS to double

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By Rajeev Syal

Immigration health surcharge, which doctors fear may encourage racial profiling, will increase to £400 a year

Charges paid by temporary migrants to the UK to use the NHS are to double, the government has announced. Ministers said the move would raise around £220m a year for the health service while ensuring that migrants made a “fair contribution” towards its costs.

The increase to the immigration health surcharge – payable by people from outside the European Economic Area staying in the UK for six months or longer – means the main rate will rise from £200 to £400 a year. The discounted rate for students and those on the youth mobility scheme will go up from £150 to £300.

A surcharge was brought in by the government in 2015 in a clampdown on so-called “health tourism”. It has been questioned by some doctors, who have voiced concern that the policy could be discriminatory and result in racial profiling to identify chargeable patients.

James O’Shaughnessy, the health minister, said: “Our NHS is always there when you need it, paid for by British taxpayers. We welcome long-term migrants using the NHS, but it is only right that they make a fair contribution to its long-term sustainability. By increasing the surcharge so that it better reflects the actual costs of using health services, this government is providing an extra £220m a year to support the NHS.”

Health tourism, where people travel to Britain for NHS treatments they are not entitled to, took up about 0.3% of the NHS’s budget, according to the fact-checking website Full Fact last year. This could include British citizens living overseas who return to the UK for treatment. The treatment of people who fall ill while visiting the UK costs the NHS about £1.8bn a year.

A National Audit Office report in 2016 said the government paid £674m to other European countries for treatment of Britons abroad, but received only £49m in return for NHS treatment of European citizens.

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