EHIC changes after Brexit
The EHIC offered UK citizens travelling to the EU access to state healthcare at no cost or subsidised rates (subject to the country’s laws). After Brexit, most Brits will not be eligible for an EHIC with certain exceptions. The EHIC after Brexit has been replaced by the GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card).
Although EU nationals that are staying in the UK can apply for a UK EHIC. Likewise, UK citizens that are residing in the EU before the end of 2020, will be eligible for a UK EHIC as per the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
Having a GHIC ensures access to public healthcare systems in all of the EU countries while on a visit to any nation. The treatment may be at the same cost as the locals or could be free depending on the state healthcare guidelines.
Does the EHIC need replacement with the GHIC
Not unless the EHIC has expired. Those that have had an EHIC issued recently before January 01, 2021, can continue to use their cards in the EU until it expires. Generally, the validity of a UK EHIC is for 5 years and the date can be checked on the front of the card. As long as the card is valid it can continue to be used in the EU when visiting any country.
What all coverage does the EHIC/GHIC offer?
Both of them offer access to the public healthcare system in case of a medical emergency on a trip to any of the EU countries. Along with treatment in an emergency, it also offers cover for pre-existing medical conditions including kidney dialysis, oxygen therapy and chemotherapy. Pregnant women also get cover for routine maternity check-ups as long as they do not visit the nation specifically to give birth there. The treatment cost will be the same as what the locals pay or even free in some countries.
Treatments excluded by an EHIC or GHIC
For the EHIC/GHIC to be valid for use it has to be declared medically essential by a public healthcare hospital or doctor. Treatment will only be provided in state-funded hospitals. There is no coverage for medical repatriation to the UK or a sea or mountain rescue in case of an accident. Instead, these are covered by travel insurance that you must have.
While there is free healthcare in the UK offered by the NHS the same may not apply to other EU countries always. In some cases, there may be a payment to be made albeit a small charge.
Where is it possible to use the GHIC/EHIC?
While both offer access to the public healthcare system in EU countries, there are some important distinctions between them.
Unlike EHIC which is more comprehensive, GHIC is not as wide-ranging in coverage. While the EHIC provides coverage in some non-EU countries like Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway, the GHIC does not offer the same. However, as per an agreement between the UK and Norway, UK residents visiting Norway may use their UK passports to get certain medical treatments for pre-existing conditions and medical emergencies.
The UK government also has entered some reciprocal health tie-ups with certain non-EU nations like New Zealand and Australia, where UK citizens can benefit from emergency treatments at a reduced cost or for free. However, pre-existing conditions are not covered.
Is there any payment to get a GHIC?
No, as with the EHIC, the GHIC is free of cost and in most cases, one can apply online, via post or visit the NHS office in person to get their free card.
What is the process to get a GHIC?
The easiest way to apply for the GHIC is online. A form needs to be filled out with the national insurance number, the NHS number, address, proof of address and date of birth and full name. Generally, it takes 10 working days for the card to arrive although it is best to apply for a card well before the expiration of your earlier medical card. UK residents can apply as much as 6 months in advance of their current card’s expiry. In case of a medical emergency and the card has not arrived, an individual can apply for a PRC (a Provisional Replacement Certificate) in the interim period.