Those that have travelled frequently across the EU have found the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) a boon for any essential medical care while on a trip. However, with the passing of Brexit, there still exists a degree of uncertainty and confusion as to the validity of the EHIC. In this blog, we examine the EHIC and its relevance and also look at its replacement issued in the UK – the GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card).
The EHIC and GHIC
The UK government and the European Union held lengthy discussions about various matters including healthcare post-Brexit and came to a decision that the EHIC could continue to be used until it expires. Those whose EHIC cards have expired will no longer be issued UK- EHICs but instead would get its replacement the GHIC. Eventually, this would serve as a replacement for EHIC holders in the UK (with a few exceptions).
Studies indicate that the UK issued 27 million EHICs before Brexit. Those that possess these cards are entitled to state healthcare in case of any emergency like an accident when are on a trip to any of the EU nations, Liechtenstein, Iceland. Switzerland and Norway. The card is also valid for EU nationals to use whilst they live in the UK.
Coverage offered by the EHIC
Any pre-existing medical issues: Any individual that has a pre-existing medical issue needing regular medical monitoring or care would be covered by the EHIC. This includes antenatal or routine maternity care where pregnant mothers need to undergo regular check-ups as part of their medical needs.
Chronic sickness: Anyone with a chronic illness needing chemotherapy, dialysis or oxygen is covered by EHIC for state healthcare treatment in the EU country they visit for free or at the same cost as the residents of that nation.
Emergency treatment: In case of an accident or a sudden illness any EHIC holder can obtain treatment at a state healthcare facility either free or at a subsidised cost.
When can we use the GHIC?
Any individual that has a valid EHIC can continue using it until it expires. The validity of most of the cards is for 5 years and the date of expiry is printed on the front of each card. They then can apply for a replacement card i.e. the GHIC that will be issued to them.
The GHIC offers almost the same levels of coverage for pre-existing, chronic and emergency medical healthcare needs. This includes getting treatment for any accident or routine maternity care at any state-run hospital. Those that need treatment for chronic medical issues like oxygen, dialysis or chemotherapy will need to contact the hospital at the destination they plan to visit in advance to make the necessary arrangements.
However, the GHIC is not valid for use in Liechtenstein, Iceland. Switzerland and Norway. Another point to remember is that having a GHIC will not serve as a substitute for travel insurance because of its limited coverage. Most other aspects are only covered by travel insurance like medical repatriation to the UK in case of an accident, treatment at private healthcare facilities etc.
How does one get a GHIC?
The qualifying criteria for a GHIC are similar to that of getting an EHIC. The card can be obtained online by filling up an application and submitting it with copies of the relevant documents as listed. It is recommended to apply for a new card a minimum of 6 months before the old card expires. It should arrive within ten working days.
However, UK nationals that are studying in the EU cannot apply for their UK-EHIC/GHIC via the online process. Instead, they will have to apply, along with copies of the documents and letter from the University at which they are enrolled. The EHIC/GHIC that will be issued will have its validity subject to the duration of the academic course.