UK launches free Global Health Insurance Card to replace EHIC

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Residents in the UK can now apply for the new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which will gradually replace the EHIC card. This new scheme has been announced by the Government after agreement with the EU. It will ensure the rights of UK citizens to get access to emergency medical care when travelling to the EU in the same way as the EHIC card does now.

When to apply for a new GHIC card

The current EHIC cards are still valid until the expiry date and you can continue to use them. You only need to apply for the new GHIC card when your current card expires. The new cards are free and can be obtained from the official GHIC website. Beware of unofficial websites that may charge you to apply. The Government are advising everyone to use the official website.

Who can get a GHIC

Any resident of the UK can apply. Entitlement is not based on nationality. Access to NHS services including GHIC’s is not determined by national insurance contributions or taxes paid but on residency in the UK. If you’re resident in the UK and not insured by an EU country or Iceland, Norway, Switzerland or Liechtenstein you should be considered insured by the UK and will be entitled to a GHIC.

If you change your circumstances such as working or moving abroad or changing your residency status, you may lose you your entitlement to a GHIC and be liable for the full cost of any treatment so it’s important to check this if your circumstances do change.

Every family member will need their own GHIC card, even children. Parents must apply for a card for any family member under the age of 16. There are slightly different rules for students planning to study in the EU. You will need to apply for a GHIC that’s time limited to the length of your course. The application for this must be done by post and full details can be found on the official EHIC website.

If you are a dual national EU/UK citizen, you will be eligible for the new UK issued GHIC providing you acquired citizenship through naturalisation and you have retained your nationality in an EU country, Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein or Iceland. Irish citizens who were born in the UK, including people of Northern Ireland who are Irish citizens, will not usually be eligible for a new UK-issued EHIC.

What the GHIC covers

The GHIC can be used to access healthcare from state services operated by the country you are visiting. It covers healthcare which becomes medically necessary during your visit and cannot wait until you return to the UK. The most common reasons are:

  • Visits to A & E and emergency treatment.
  • Routine medical care for pre-existing medical conditions that need monitoring.
  • Kidney dialysis (pre-arranged treatment).
  • Routine maternity care as long as you are not travelling abroad to give birth.

It’s important to check that any pre-arranged treatment is not booked with a private healthcare provider as this will not be covered by your GHIC.

If you become ill during travel to an EU country on a plane or a ship then your GHIC will cover you at your destination.

What is not covered by GHIC

GHIC’s will not cover you in Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein or Iceland. Details on arrangements for these countries can be found on dedicated GOV.UK website.

You will only be eligible for the same free state healthcare available to the citizens of the country you are visiting. Not all countries provide the same range of free services as the NHS in the UK so you may have to make a contribution towards some costs. In some countries residents have to make a payment towards costs of state provided treatment, including GP appointments and medicines. This is known known as patient co-payment. You would be expected to pay the same amount as a resident from the country you are visiting.

GHIC will not cover you if you travel abroad specifically for medical treatment or to give birth.

Travel Insurance

The Government advise that everyone travelling abroad takes out comprehensive and appropriate travel insurance for their visit. A GHIC will cover you for emergency treatment but would not cover you for events such as mountain rescue or similar services provided by private operators. It would also not cover you for being flown home if that was medically necessary. All travellers should have travel insurance alongside their GHIC and you should ensure it covers your healthcare needs.

What if you forget your card

If you need treatment during your visit and you don’t have your card, you can apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate. If you are unable to apply someone can apply for you.  You may have to pay the upfront costs of any treatment but if you have received a PRC you can claim back the costs eligible treatment providing you keep all receipts and paperwork.

Details of how to apply for a PRC can be found on the official GHIC website.

Posted by Graham Morley

Graham Morley

Graham is the Business Development Manager for Compare Holiday Money.

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