New migrant ‘health surcharge’ an election stunt full of loopholes
(19 March 2015)
The government announced today that migrants will be subject to a new ‘health surcharge’. The fee comes into effect next month. The surcharge is £200 per year payable upfront with students required to pay £150 annually.
Thom Brooks, Professor of Law and Government at Durham University, argues the health surcharge is an election stunt full of loopholes. The policy begins on 6 April – a week after Parliament is expected to dissolve and during a national election campaign. Brooks says:
“Government rhetoric fails to meet reality. The public are told the surcharge will offset the costs to the NHS from treating migrants. However, thousands of migrants will not need to pay because of several exemptions and restrictions. It’s a clear case of government saying one thing, but doing another.”
The health surcharge will only be imposed on non-EEA citizens in the UK temporarily for more than 6 months. EEA citizens from Europe are unaffected. There are 11 different exemptions from the surcharge include anyone visiting the UK for under six months, intra-company transfers, children under 18 years in care, and nationals of Australia and New Zealand.
Professor Brooks has concerns that the funding raised may not be used effectively: ‘Migrants paying the surcharge must do so upfront and the money collected is distributed to the relevant health department in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. The problem is that migrants don’t always stay in the same place. If a migrant moves from England to Wales, the funding raised by the surcharge does not appear to follow the individual. This will mean the new funds might not go to the authorities that need it most’.
‘This health surcharge might not support the NHS in the way it has been announced. The government should stop seeing immigration as a political football and instead as a serious policy area that deserves more serious policymaking’.