The bridging measure applied to people both sides of the border. / sur

Spain decides to discontinue reciprocal health care agreement with Gibraltar

After the Brexit transition period came to an end on 31 December 2020, the Spanish government introduced the arrangement as a bridging measure until 30 June, but has decided not to extend it

DEBBIE BARTLETT Gibraltar

There has been disappointment expressed in Gibraltar following the news that Spain has decided not to extend the reciprocal health care agreement with Gibraltar when the present arrangement comes to an end on 30 June.

Officially, these arrangements should have ended on 31 December 2020, when the Brexit transition period terminated, but the full effect was tempered by Spain introducing a bridging measure whereby reciprocal healthcare arrangements would continue until the end of June 2022.

Despite the ongoing negotiations regarding Gibraltar’s future relationship with the EU, which by all accounts seemed to be going well, on Monday the Spanish Cabinet decided to let the measure lapse rather than extend it.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Gibraltar government said it would have preferred the arrangements, which affect citizens on both sides of the border, to have been maintained and was prepared to continue with them. “However,” it went on to say, “because reciprocity is a key element to these arrangements which cannot work without coordination and provisions for reimbursement of costs etc., HMGoG is left with no option but to discontinue them also in so far as treatment in Gibraltar is concerned”.

What it actually means

The effect of the above is as follows: It means that Gibraltar residents insured under the Group Practice Medical Scheme will no longer be able to access free emergency health care in Spain during a temporary stay there. The government has warned that they should take out travel insurance which includes medical care so they are covered every time they go to Spain, even if it is only for a few hours (such as a shopping trip or a meal) or they will have to pay for any medical care received.

This has been the position in all EU member states except Spain since 31 December 2020.

The Gibraltar government says that as a result, the Gibraltar Health Authority will no longer provide free healthcare for visitors who are covered by Spain’s social security system.