In a move that is set to burn a hole in the pockets of hundreds of migrants and long-term visitors, the United Kingdom government has announced its plans to double the "health surcharge." The amount is paid by long-term visitors as well as students from counties outside the European Union, including India.
The "health surcharge" was introduced in April 2015, and migrants and visitors had to shell out £200 for the same. However, migrants and visitors, including those from India, will now have to pay £400 as health surcharge and even those students who could pay a discounted amount of £150 will have to shell out £300.
The plan will come into effect later in 2018 and has been put in place to support the state-funded National Health Service or NHS, which is reportedly facing a financial crisis.
"It is only right that people who come to the UK should contribute to the running of the NHS. The surcharge offers access to health care services that are far more comprehensive and at a much lower cost than many other countries," the Press Trust of India quoted UK Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes as saying.
"The income generated goes directly to the NHS services, helping to protect and sustain our world-class healthcare system for everyone who uses it," she said.
The department has said that it spends an average of £470 treating surcharge payers and hence it makes sense for migrants to pay the amount.
"Our NHS is always there when you need it, paid for by British taxpayers. We welcome long-term migrants using the NHS, but it is only right that they make a fair contribution to its long-term sustainability, said UK Health Minister James O'Shaughnessy.
"By increasing the surcharge so that it better reflects the actual costs of using health services, this government is providing an extra 220 million pounds a year to support the NHS."
However, the surcharge is not related to emergency care and the NHS provides assistance to people in need, irrespective of their immigration status.
Meanwhile, several Indians in the UK recently slammed the nation's immigration laws and even staged a protest opposite Downing Street. The laws that focus on indefinite leave to remain (ILR) were termed as "unfair and inhumane" and highly-skilled migrants even raised £25,000 to challenge the country's home department.
The department had reportedly turned down several applications for ILR on the basis of a part of the Immigration Act which is actually meant for criminals and tax evaders.
"We are a group of highly skilled migrants who have been suffering because of injustice done by the Home Office. This group was formed coincidently on different social media platforms because of the unfairness and inhumane policies the Home Office had been bringing," PTI had quoted the group as saying.
"Skilled migrants with excellent educational and professional skills are being refused ILR on the ground of 'tax error rectification' because of small errors they have made in their tax returns in the past, which they have long ago rectified and paid off," Aditi Bhardwaj, one of the organizers of the protest added.