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Free Healthcare for Pensioners

The UK government reform on benefits is opening doors for pensioners to get more of the benefits entitled to them, even if they choose to live abroad. If you are of a certain age and think your regular benefits will become invalidated once you move to Bulgaria read on...

Bulgaria’s membership of the EU and the European Economic Area means that people who emigrate to member states may still qualify for certain benefits, such as long-term Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, widow's benefits, bereavement benefits, State Pension or other healthcare rights from the Department of Work and Pensions in the UK. British men over 65 years old and British women over 60 years old are eligible for application, also if you are unable to work and you have claimed incapacity benefit you are also able to apply, regardless of your age.

E121 – a pensioners key to free healthcare

The E121 is a scheme that entitles you to free or reduced emergency or ongoing healthcare under NHS funding, even when abroad. In order to apply for this service you will need to write to The Pension Service, International Pension Centre, Tyneview Park, Newcastle-upon-Tyne NE98 1BA, giving your full name, your date of birth and your National Insurance number, and inform them that you will be emigrating or spending a significant amount of time abroad. You can also request that a Bulgarian medical authority apply for an application for a certificate of entitlement on your behalf. This particular form is E107, and this will be sent to The Pension Service Medical Benefits Section in the UK.

You will need to register with a Bulgarian GP, to qualify for medical cover, but until your E121 has been registered at the local sickness insurance office, you are not covered for healthcare, so ensure you send or take the forms to your nearest Sickness Insurance Office in Bulgaria as soon as you get them. In the meantime, you might want to take out temporary medical insurance in case of emergency. Once they have the forms, the Bulgarian authority will fill in part B and send a copy back to the Pensions Service in the UK to inform them that you are now actively registered with them.

Once the claim has been processed and certified by the UK authorities, the control passes over to the Bulgarian Health Authority, who will then deal with any claims for medical benefits from then on, as well as explaining exactly what you are entitled to. Depending on your situation, the NHS will cover the full or partial cost of medicines and treatments that you seek from the Bulgarian Health Service. They will also help you to process refunds of your past medical expenses in Bulgaria from the foreign sickness insurance authority in the UK, as long as it wasn’t private treatment - the NHS does not refund the cost of treatment obtained privately either in the UK or abroad.

You do need to have full residency in Bulgaria in order for your E121 to be active. To obtain this, you will need to apply for a Lichna Karta from your local immigration office. You will need to prove that you have enough money to support yourself and any dependants you may have.

Early Retirement? Get an E106

If you decide to take early retirement (under 65 or 60 years respectively), you can apply for an E106, which provides temporary cover as long as you have been working and/or paying contributions into the UK system for the last three years. If after the expiration of your E106 you have reached pensionable age, you can then apply for your E121, or if not, apply for an extension.

In addition to this, if any members of your family visit or live with you and they are not of pensionable age, they will need a European Health Insurance Card, or EHIC for their medical cover whilst they are in the country. However, if you have an E121 but your spouse is under pensionable age then they too are entitled to healthcare under your coverage. If you have an EHIC yourself it is no longer recognised nor needed once you have your E121.

For more information contact:

The Pension Service
Tyneview Park
Medical Benefits
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE99 1BA
Telephone: 0044(0)218777
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