Thursday, 5 November 2020
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
European Health Insurance Card
I thank the Minister for his response, which was fairly comprehensive in one sense. I am not trying to catch anybody out or trip anybody up because I believe the Minister is committed to this. As he correctly acknowledged, we are 57 days out from the end of the transition period. People need to start hearing detail and have this issue explained to them so they understand it clearly. I appreciate also that there are current restrictions on travel but hopefully we will get through to the other end of that.
People need to hear and understand how this is measure will work. If it is the case that people will have to go through a process and then apply for reimbursement, inherently that will not be the same as retaining the current EHIC system. Without getting into the politics of the issue, if that is to be the reality, people need to understand. Will it still be a matter of going to a local post office to apply for this scheme? Will that option be available to them? How will reimbursement work and how long will it take? Will it be a fairly simple model? While I appreciate the Minister has flagged up the legislation that will come to the House, there is a very short window here.
I made the point to Government representatives this week that while this whole debate has understandably moved very firmly into the economic and trade realm recently, there has been a loss of focus on the very important issue of the retention of citizens' rights, certainly in the public domain.If the Minister is in a position to do so it might be something we could revisit. I cannot stress enough the importance of this scheme and the other schemes along with the issues he acknowledged in his contribution. We need to communicate to the communities in the North that are so affected by this. Along with the anxiety of Covid they are really uncertain. The promises are important and welcome. I take them in good faith. We now need to hear the mechanics of how that will work.