The UK government is seeking agreements with EU countries, including Bulgaria, on healthcare arrangements for UK nationals after March 29, the date of Brexit, according to notices by the British government and the National Health Service.
“If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, your access to healthcare when visiting Bulgaria is likely to change,” the NHS said.
It advised British citizens planning to visit Bulgaria on or after March 29 that “you should continue to buy travel insurance so you can get the healthcare treatment you need, just as you would if visiting a non-EU country”.
“If you are using an EHIC issued by the UK, this will still be valid until March 29 2019.”
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives citizens of EU countries the right to access state-provided healthcare at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free, on the same basis as a resident of that country.
Everyone who is eligible for health insurance in Bulgaria is registered with the Bulgarian NHIF. This is the only organisation in Bulgaria that deals with compulsory health insurance, the NHS said.
“Once you are registered with the relevant authorities, you are entitled to state funded healthcare and you will have to pay the same patient contributions as a permanent resident of Bulgaria.”
Registration is also necessary to obtain a Bulgarian National Health Insurance Card. “You will have to present the card every time you see a doctor or dentist.”
Workers posted by UK companies to Bulgaria may be entitled to health cover funded by the UK in the country you are posted to. The NHS advised people in this position to contact HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for further detais.
“If you are a permanent or long-term resident in Bulgaria, you must register with the NHIF and pay health insurance, giving you the same access to healthcare as Bulgarian nationals, including emergency healthcare.
“If you are a UK posted worker, you may need to buy additional healthcare insurance in Bulgaria (state and/or private) so you can continue to receive the healthcare you need.”
As to British pensioners living in Bulgaria, regarding the situation after March 29, the NHS said: “If you live in Bulgaria and receive an exportable UK Pension, contribution-based Employment Support Allowance or another exportable benefit, you may be entitled to state healthcare paid for by the UK.
“You will need to apply for a certificate of entitlement known as an S1 certificate. An S1 certificate helps you and your dependants access healthcare in Bulgaria. If you have an S1 certificate, it will be valid until March 29.
“After this date, the certificate may not be valid, depending on decisions by member states,” the notice said.
Anyone who has been in Bulgaria for less than five years would need to apply for a long-term residency to continue living in Bulgaria.
People who have continuously lived in Bulgaria for more than five years may be able to apply for a permanent residency, the notice said.