With Brexit done, the UK is phasing out the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and replacing it with the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). But what does that mean for you if plan on travelling within the EU? Let’s take a look.
What is the GHIC?
A GHIC entitles you to the same state-funded medical treatment as a resident in whichever EU country you visit. Here’s a breakdown of what it covers:
- Emergency care and A&E visits (if you can’t wait until you get home).
- Some maternity care.
- Monitoring for long-term health conditions.
You’ll be treated the same as a local resident seeking emergency care:
- If they’re entitled to free healthcare, so are you.
- On the flip side, if they pay for treatment, you pay the same rates.
Who can get a card?
You can get a GHIC if you’re a UK resident and you’re not insured by an EU country or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.
- Studying abroad? Apply for a GHIC to cover the duration of your stay.
- If you’re studying in one of the four countries listed above, you need an EHIC instead.
Everyone in the family can get a Global Health Insurance Card.
Can I still use an EHIC?
Yes. Don’t worry – if you already have a European Health Insurance Card, you can usually use it until it expires. Check the bottom right-hand corner of your card for the expiration date.
The exception? if you’re heading to Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Iceland, old UK EHIC’s won’t work, so you’ll need a new one.
Some people can (and should) apply for a new EHIC rather than a Global Health Insurance Card. Get an EHIC if you’re an EU national living in the UK before 1 January 2021, or if you’re from one of the four countries mentioned.
Not sure whether the EHIC or GHIC is right for you? Take a look at the gov.uk website for more information.
Where can I get a GHIC?
Simply visit the UK government’s official portal and complete the online application form.
- If you’ve never applied for an EHIC before, you’ll need to register and choose a username and password first.
- Make sure you’ve got your National Insurance or NHS Number (CHI Number in Scotland) handy. You’ll find your NHS Number on prescriptions and letters from your hospital or GP, but if you can’t find it, contact your doctor.
- If you have children under 16, you can register as the main applicant and apply for more cards.
Cards normally take around 10 days to arrive, so make sure you apply in plenty of time before you travel.
How much does a GHIC cost?
Good news: it’s free to get a GHIC.
Although some websites might charge you an application fee, it’s completely free if you apply through the official website.
Do I still need travel insurance?
Yes. Remember, the GHIC doesn’t cover everything, and it doesn’t guarantee free medical treatment.
So, for example, it won’t help you if you’re flown back to the UK after a medical emergency, and it doesn’t cover holiday cancellations. It doesn’t cover you in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland or Norway, either.
For complete protection abroad, you should always take out travel insurance. Some insurers require you to have an EHIC/GHIC in place, so apply for a card before you take out holiday insurance.
What if I forget to take my card on holiday?
Don’t panic! Give the NHS Overseas Healthcare Services a call on +44 (0)191 218 1999, or get someone else to call for you. You’ll get a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) which will cover you until you get home.
If you don’t have an EHIC or GHIC when you travel, Overseas Healthcare Services might still be able to help you.
The Global Health Insurance Card entitles you to the same state-funded emergency healthcare as local residents It’s an invaluable document to have with you when you travel. It’s free and easy to apply for, so put it on your holiday to-do list.
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