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The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is currently being phased out and replaced by the new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) following the UK’s exit from the EU.
This is part of a wider healthcare arrangement agreed with the EU that will see continued cooperation on healthcare for UK residents travelling abroad.
A new healthcare card for UK travellers will provide access to healthcare when visiting the EU in future, the government has announced.
The free Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) replaces the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), although those with the latter only need to apply once it expires.
With widespread travel on hold across Europe as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it gives Brits an opportunity to ensure they are prepared for when travel is possible.
Anyone visiting the EU on a temporary basis – such as for a holiday, business trip or to study – can access emergency healthcare using a valid card.
However it’s important to note that both the EHIC and the GHIC do not act as a replacement for travel insurance, so future holidaymakers will need to ensure they are covered before setting off.
This is key, as what is regularly available via the NHS in the UK might not be available free of charge via other healthcare services across Europe, while the EHIC does not cover mountain rescue, repatriation and numerous other emergency procedures.
Holidaymakers could therefore face a number of unexpected charges should the worst happen and they do not have adequate travel insurance cover in place.
While the EHIC provided emergency cover in all 27 EU countries, as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, that is no longer the case for the GHIC.
Coverage for the EU nations is unchanged, but the new card can no longer be used to access healthcare in those four additional countries, unless an individual was already in that country on a trip prior to 1 January 2021.
The government has said it is seeking to set up new reciprocal healthcare agreements with those nations, although cover is limited until such a time as those arrangements are in place.
Any UK resident can apply for the new GHIC on the government website and it is recommended that they do so at least two to three weeks before they are due to travel.
The expiry date on an existing EHIC can be found in the bottom right corner and it is worth checking, as around five million expired in 2020.
Date Created: 26/01/2021