A consultation released today says that the NHS “cannot continue as an international rather than a national health service” and is “very generous” to those living overseas.
“Our current system…attracts ‘health tourists’ - people who take advantage of our current generous entitlements and are able to avoid detection or payment,” it says.
The consultation proposes to charge anyone from outside the EU who is in the UK for up to five years, which would include students.
The “migrant health levy” would be collected on entry to the country, although could be waived if the migrant has private health insurance.
The consultation says the levy should be at least £200 a year.
Daniel Stevens, international students’ officer at the National Union of Students, Tweeted that he hoped to see “at least one week of policy announcements that aren’t detrimental to international students”.
However, the consultation does leave the door open for students to be charged less than other groups. In asking respondents for their views on how high the charge should be, it says the “wider economic value of students” can be taken into account.
The levy “might vary for different groups,” it adds.
Student visitors, who stay for less than six months, will continue to be charged at the point of use when they use the NHS.
The consultation says that the problem of health tourism is “significant” but has launched an audit to see exactly how much of a drain it is.