A free new insurance card enabling British travellers to access healthcare in the EU has been launched.
Global Health Insurance Cards (GHIC) became available today as part of the UK’s post-Brexit deal with the EU.
It replaces European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC), which remain valid as long as they are in date.
Travellers only need to apply for a new card when their EHIC expires.
The Department of Health and Social Care said both cards offer equivalent protection for ’emergency and medically-necessary healthcare needs’ when a UK resident is in the EU on a temporary stay.
But rather than continuing with membership of the EHIC scheme, British travellers will have access to free or reduced-rate medical treatment only in the EU27 – not the associated countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
Global Health Insurance Cards became available today as part of the UK’s post-Brexit deal with the EU. It replaces European Health Insurance Cards, which remain valid if they are in date
The Department of Health said both cards offer equivalent protection for ’emergency and medically-necessary healthcare needs’ when a UK resident is in the EU on a temporary stay
GHICs can be obtained from www.nhs.uk/GHIC and are free of charge.
Travellers are advised to apply at least two weeks before their next trip.
Health Minister Edward Argar said: ‘Our deal with the EU ensures the right for our citizens to access necessary healthcare on their holidays and travels to countries in the EU will continue.
‘The GHIC is a key element of the UK’s future relationship with the EU and will provide certainty and security for all UK residents.’
The NHS will continue to accept EHICs issued by EU member states.
People are being warned that an EHIC or GHIC is not a replacement for insurance.
Which? travel editor Rory Boland said: ‘The launch of the Global Health Insurance Card is good news for consumers after we warned holidaymakers in Europe could face eye-watering medical bills if a reciprocal healthcare agreement was not part of a Brexit deal.
GHICs can be obtained from www.nhs.uk/GHIC and are free of charge. Travellers are advised to apply at least two weeks before their next trip
‘We have seen and reported a number of unscrupulous copycat websites charging people to apply for free GHICs, so anyone looking to apply must remain vigilant and only use the official NHS website.
‘It is important to remember the GHIC covers fewer countries than the EHIC, so travellers should check they can use it before going abroad.
‘We’d also advise holidaymakers to still buy travel insurance as soon as they book a holiday, so they are covered for other issues that may arise such as cancellations and lost luggage.’
If a UK resident is travelling without a card, they are still entitled to necessary healthcare, and should contact the NHS Business Services Authority (which covers the whole of the UK), which can arrange for payment should they require treatment when abroad.
EHICs from EU member states will continue to be accepted by the NHS.
It is advised that anyone travelling overseas, whether to the EU or elsewhere in the world, should take out comprehensive travel insurance.