LONDON, England – Health tourists are sharing tips online on how to ‘screw with the system’ and milk the NHS for free healthcare in their own countries.
Romanians, Poles, Lithuanians and Slovakians boast of how they have managed to charge the UK for superficial health treatments – and ‘no one even blinks’.
The tips were discovered on foreign language forums and blogs on the internet.
Messages give step-by-step instructions on how to get hold of UK-registered European Health Insurance Cards, allowing them to charge the NHS for treatments abroad for all their family for up to five years.
Expectant mothers admitted using the ploy to give birth in their home countries – at the UK’s expense.
On a forum for Slovakian mothers-to-be, a woman calling herself Bobocka states: ‘I was working in the UK, but after starting maternity leave I went to Slovakia, where I gave birth.
‘I received the maternity pay from the UK and when the paid maternity finished, I stopped the employment and we stayed in Slovakia.’
She added: ‘You’ll need a European insurance card – this is the blue card. Through the card, all arrangements to do with the pregnancy and childbirth will be made free. I was very surprised that there were not so many run-ins with the authorities.’
Another poster, Jantarsan, agreed, adding: ‘Our baby was born in Slovakia and everywhere the European (the blue) card was enough.’
A Romanian blogger called Stella writes: ‘This [EHIC] card you can get easy and fast, and most importantly, free. To get it, you need to fill an online form which does not last more than five minutes.
‘Once the online application has been accepted and received your confirmation email, you are insured! The card you receive by mail about a week. Et voila! Free medical insurance for vacation in Europe!’
Forums advise Eastern Europeans on how to get round the requirement to show a GP receptionist a ‘proof of address’ document. ‘Tell your friends to make you proof of address,’ writes Iubitulondrei. ‘Write that you live with them. It will be OK.’
Others suggest setting up UK bank accounts registered to a UK address.
One man even boasted that he got one by giving police a false address when he was caught shoplifting in Britain. Because the fake address then appeared on an official document, he was able to use it to get an NHS number.
Some forum users appeal to others for help. Luckaro asks: ‘I worked in the UK for a year as a chambermaid. I am 21 and I got pregnant. I am thinking about giving birth in Slovakia, but only on the condition that I’ll still get all of what I am entitled to here (maternity pay. Child tax credit, child benefit). How do I apply for the European cards?’
And a woman named Ludecka says: ‘I work in the UK and I’m 13 weeks pregnant. I wondered what would be best, give birth here or at home? I wonder how “to screw with the system”?’
Ivanka replies: ‘You need to explain why you go (I reported a strong family and personal reason).’
And Kobercek added: ‘I’ve been in this situation before. No one even blinked. Everything was solved with the EHIC card.’
On Polish forums, members discuss how the EHIC can be used for superficial treatments.
Mehow writes: ‘Having the card entitles people in Poland to primary health care, which includes gynecologist and obstetrician, dentist, dermatologist, venereologist, oncologist, ophthalmologist, a psychiatrist.’