Friday, June 16, 2006


I didn’t get around to registering with a doctor till December: I’d registered Simi with a vet first, as she is the more important of the two of us!

I did have an E111 form which would have covered me during the first couple of months but you are not supposed to use it once you are officially resident here.

All the books I read before coming indicated that, as an EU citizen, I would be entitled to medical care here as I was in the UK. WRONG! I have been caught out on this. It is my own fault, for, if I’d had the sense to check with the UK Department for Work and Pensions I would have been forewarned; but I hate financial stuff and choose to ignore the fact that I am fast reaching official retirement age.

If you are working in the new EU country, there is no problem, as you are paying contributions into that country’s system. As I understand it, it is also OK if you have retired at the official age for Britons. I, however, took early retirement from teaching on medical grounds and, although I have worked ever since, I have been paid on an hourly rate and have not received full pay during holiday periods. Therefore my National Insurance contributions only entitle me to limited cover: I had to apply for Form E106 from the DWP [which I couldn’t have done before I left as you have to have a permanent address in the new country] and I am covered until next January. Even if I did have more NI “stamps” paid, this form usually only covers you for a maximum of two years. After that, you are on your own! Some people may be covered again when they do reach 60 or 65 but this is unlikely in my case. So it is that an EU citizen can be without medical cover in an EU country! Surely this is an anomaly and surely something should be done about it. So many Brits retire early and live abroad now! I will have to get a private medical insurance, of course, and I need to do that soon. I am fuming about this! SO IF YOU ARE THINKING OF RELOCATING WITHIN THE EU, DO NOT GET CAUGHT OUT ON THIS ONE!

The question arises, being on a limited budget, would it have stopped me coming here if I’d known about this? - No, I’d already reached “now or never” point: you can always find a reason to hang on; “I’ll hang on till I get my state pension as well / till I can get another few thousand for the house / till I’ve got my stamps completely paid up”. How do you know you’ll be around? And meanwhile the years pass and the years become decades; then before you know it you’re an old woman.

Chi vuol esser lieto, sia:
Di doman non c’è certezza
wrote Lorenzo De’ Medici. [= “Be happy if you want to; there’s no certainty about tomorrow.”] Or, as Verlaine put it centuries later:
- Qu’as-tu fait, ô toi que voilà
Pleurant sans cesse,
Dis, qu’as-tu fait, toi que voilà,
De ta jeunesse?
[= “Hey, you there, crying all the time, what did you do? Tell me, you there, what did you do with your youth?”]

The health system as I've experienced it here is quite efficient: several GPs use the same surgery space on different days and most "receive" in several locations. I do not have to make an appointment with my GP; I just go and sit and await my turn [ a change from the UK where you can wait ages for an appointment!] though some doctors do use an appointments system. My monthly asthma prescription costs €4 to have filled and, as I've mentioned before, there are several conveniently located pharmacies. I received a free 'flu jab without any fuss back in the winter [as I would have in Britain] and you don't have to wait so long for routine hospital appointments.
Incidentally, my asthma is a lot better here whilst my arthritis is marginally worse - possibly because of the humidity in winter or possibly because of that thing I don't like mentioning - ageing!

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