EHIC vs GHIC – what medical cover are UK travellers entitled to post-Brexit?
11 January 2021
Since the UK’s Brexit transition period officially ended on 1 January and the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement took force, rules and regulations are changing for travellers heading into Europe. However, travel into Europe will only begin again once the present lockdown restrictions are finally lifted.
So, what is available to UK travellers who are planning trips to Europe once the current travel restrictions are lifted?
What happens to travellers who renewed their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in 2020? Alternatively, is it worth acquiring a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)?
Fiona Macrae, head of consumer awareness initiative travelinsuranceexplained.co.uk explains the nuances between the EHIC and the GHIC and what you need to know about both cards.
What is the difference between the EHIC and the GHIC?
The GHIC is very similar to the EHIC allowing British tourists to access free, or heavily discounted treatment in public hospitals should they fall ill and need medical attention while on holiday in the EU.
Both the EHIC and GHIC also cover any necessary medical treatment for existing conditions and routine maternity care, provided you are not travelling to the country to give birth or seek medical treatment.
The agreement between the UK and EU means that British tourists will continue to pay the same price for treatment at a hospital as local residents would. Thankfully, in terms of healthcare abroad, very little has changed.
If the GHIC is global, does it cover medical costs all over the world?
The government are yet to confirm whether the GHIC will extend to the reciprocal agreement which is in place with countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Gibraltar, and the Caribbean.
Although, one thing we can be certain of is that it won’t be ‘carte blanche’ global cover, whereby we have reciprocal healthcare arrangements with all countries around the world.
However, it is also worth knowing that the GHIC is not permitted for use in Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein. However, UK students studying in the EU, some British state pensioners living in the EU, and EU nationals in the UK will be able to apply for a new UK EHIC and continue to receive its benefits in these countries.
Additionally, any Brits who arrived in Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein before 1 January 2021 will be able to continue to use their UK EHIC, provided it has not already expired.
Can you apply for the GHIC if you still have an EHIC?
Brits who renewed their EHIC before the end of 2020 will be able to continue to use their EHIC until it expires – even if that’s years away!
So, while the EHIC is still in date, tourists do not need to apply for a GHIC just yet.
Who can apply for a GHIC, what’s the registration process, how long does it take, and how much does it cost?
All UK residents are eligible to apply for a GHIC. And any EU, Swiss, Norwegian, Icelandic, or Liechtenstein nationals living in the UK before 1 January 2021 will be able to apply for a new EHIC, which will continue to be valid in the EU, as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. However, it’s worth being aware that those moving to the UK after 1 January 2021 won’t be able to apply for an EHIC.
Registering for a GHIC is exactly the same process as applying for an EHIC and there are several ways to do so. Brits can apply online via the official website, call the GHIC application service on 0300 330 1350, or print off the online application form and apply by post. Applications usually take between 7-10 days to process, but extra time should be allowed for postal applications.
However, holidaymakers should also be aware of fraudulent websites that charge a fee when applying for a GHIC, as just like the EHIC, the GHIC is completely free.
What happens if I fall ill abroad and do not have a GHIC?
Brits that fall ill in an EU country and do not have an EHIC or GHIC (due to it not arriving in time or being misplaced) are able to apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) to prove their entitlement.
This can be applied for by calling the Overseas Healthcare Services on 0191 218 1999 to apply, the PRC will provide the same cover as an EHIC or GHIC would have.
However, it’s worth being aware that PRC’s can only be issued during set opening hours. So, if tourists require emergency medical attention at the weekend or late at night, they may need to rely on their travel insurance to cover costs.
Do I still need travel insurance if I have EHIC or GHIC?
Yes! Even though the EHIC and GHIC entitle Brits to emergency medical treatment abroad, they do not cover costs for cancellation, lost luggage, or repatriation (if you need to be flown home in an emergency).
So, it is essential that Brits still continue to buy an adequate travel insurance policy that meets their needs in order to gain full protection while abroad. And some travel insurers even waiver the excess on a policy if the EHIC or GHIC has been used for emergency medical treatment.
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Notes to editors:
Travel Insurance Explained is a multimedia awareness campaign that has been created to be an impartial voice to help you understand travel insurance, so should you need to make a claim you will be delighted with the outcome.
Our goals are:
- To help consumers understand what a policy can and cannot cover
- To explain insurance jargon in everyday terms
- To give consumers the tools they need to ensure they get the most appropriate policy
- To help reduce disputed claims and therefore increase consumers satisfaction
- To match the consumers’ requirements to ensure they are buying a suitable policy for their needs at an appropriate price.