Now that we have left the European Union, what has the European Health Insurance Card replaced and how do I get one?
In a new series we answer YOUR burning money questions…
I used to have an EHIC in case I needed medical assistance while on holiday in Europe. Now that we have left the European Union, what has replaced the EHIC and how do I get one? SW, Lincolnshire.
Ruth Jackson-Kirby replies: The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) enabled British travelers to receive free medical treatment when traveling in Europe. British citizens have not been able to apply for one since January last year.
All changes: The European Health Insurance Card has been replaced by the Global Health Insurance Card
The good news is that the EHIC has been replaced by the new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). And if you still have an EHIC, you can use it until it expires.
The GHIC entitles you to the same free treatment that locals receive in government hospitals and GP surgeries in Europe.
You should receive free emergency treatment and care in an Accident and Emergency Department in most countries. You also generally do not have to pay for the treatment of pre-existing conditions and maternity care – unless you went abroad to give birth. You should also be able to get free oxygen and kidney dialysis in most places if needed.
However, government healthcare is not free in all European countries, so there is no guarantee that a GHIC will provide you with the treatment you need free of charge. Ceri McMillan, travel insurance spokesperson for comparison website Go Compare, says: “Many countries don’t have free health services like we do in the UK. If private healthcare is your only option, a GHIC will not cover that.’
For trips in Europe you should therefore also take out travel insurance with GHIC. This way you are covered if you need private care or need to be flown home.
McMillan adds: “Travel insurance is still required for contingencies such as cancellations, disruptions and if something happens to your luggage or personal belongings.”
Don’t let the GHIC’s name fool you either: it doesn’t cover you around the globe.
It covers you in the 27 member countries of the European Union but not in the non-EU countries that were covered by the EHIC, namely Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
The Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Monaco, San Marino and Vatican do not accept GHIC or EHIC.
However, the UK has reciprocal health agreements with some other countries, including Australia and New Zealand, as well as Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo. This means that with your GHIC you have access to free government medical care in these countries.
However, make sure you read up on the arrangement before you travel to any of them so you know exactly what you are covered for.
You can apply for a GHIC free of charge on the NHS website at nhs.uk/usingthe-nhs/healthcare-abroad/apply-for-a-free-uk-global-healthinsurance-card-ghic. If you are unable to apply online you can call 0191 218 1999 for assistance.
Make sure you apply for a GHIC directly through the NHS website. There are a number of third party websites that try to charge you for applying for one and they are often designed to resemble the official website so be careful. You should never have to pay for a GHIC.
To apply for the card you will need to provide your social security number and in some cases you may be asked for your NHS number. You will also be asked for your full name, address and date of birth.
You can find your NI number on a payslip or letters about your pension or benefits. If you don’t have your NHS number you can look it up at nhs.uk/nhs-services/onlineservices/find-nhs-number.
GHICs last five years and if you lose yours you can apply for a replacement online at NHS.uk.
Finally, don’t forget to take your GHIC with you when you travel and print out your travel insurance details.
You must present both to the medical staff when receiving treatment and making an insurance claim. It’s also worth taking a picture of your GHIC and emailing it to yourself so you have a copy in case you lose it abroad.
If you forget your GHIC and need medical assistance while in an EU country, you can apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) through NHS Overseas Healthcare Services.
Go to: nhsbsa.nhs.uk/contact-us/overseas-healthcare-services-contact-us. If necessary, someone else can apply for a PRC on your behalf.
New GHIC applications are taking longer than usual to process, according to the NHS.
If you need emergency treatment abroad and have not yet received a card, you should apply for a PRC.