For decades, British residents have benefited from reciprocal medical treatment when travelling in Europe (and vice versa). While the final Brexit agreement stipulates that Brits will still have free or reduced-cost state medical treatment available to them after Brexit, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will no longer be issued after 1 January 2021.
Here's what we know about what will replace the EHIC and what happens to existing EHICs.
Is my EHIC still valid after Brexit?
Yes, if you have an EHIC it will still work until its expiration date, even if the card's expiration date occurs after the official 31 December 2021 Brexit date. For example, if your EHIC expires on 1 September 2021, you can still rely on it to travel in most of Europe until that date.
However, after 1 January 2021, valid EHICs will NOT work in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.
Can I get a new EHIC card after Brexit?
Most people will not be eligible for a new EHIC after Brexit, but there are exceptions. After 1 January 2021, you can apply for a new EHIC that is valid for use in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland if you're a UK student studying in the EU, an EU national in the UK and some British State Pensioners who live in the EU (and their families). Specifically:
- an EU, Swiss, Norwegian, Icelandic or Liechtenstein citizen living in the UK by 31 December 2020
- a UK State Pensioner or receiving some other exportable benefits, and you have a registered S1 form or E121
- a frontier worker (someone who works in one state and lives in another) by 31 December 2020, for as long as you continue to be a frontier worker in the host state, and you’re eligible for an S1 form or E106
- a worker posted to work in another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland by your UK employer, where the country has agreed to let the posting continue
- an eligible family member or dependant of one of the above
- a UK student studying in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland by 31 December 2020
What is replacing the EHIC?
After Brexit, the EHIC will be replaced by a new, similar card called the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)—we don't really understand the name, however, as it won't cover you globally. It will cover you while temporarily visiting the EU (not in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland).
Unfortunately there are not many details available about the GHIC yet. Check the gov.uk site for the latest information.
Like the EHIC, the GHIC will be free to get.
How can I get a GHIC?
As of 31 December 2020, the government has not yet announced when they start issuing GHICs.
That said, you can apply for the free GHIC at the NHS website. Until 4 January 2021, this page still refers to EHIC but will switch to GHIC after the 4th.
I need an EHIC or GHIC right now. What can I do?
If you are planning to travel to the EU but do not have a valid EHIC or a GHIC yet, you can apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) to prove your entitlement to healthcare if you travel to Europe. The PRC is issued by the NHS and proves that you are entitled to NHS care, and therefor reciprocal care in Europe.
Request a PRC by calling Overseas Healthcare Services at the NHS Business Services Authority on 0191 218 1999. They're open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.
What does the GHIC cover?
The official details for the GHIC have not yet been released, but we expect similar coverage to the EHIC:
- Medically-necessary, state-provided healthcare free of charge or at a reduced cost while on a temporary trip in Europe until you return to the UK.
- Treatment of a chronic or pre-existing medical condition that becomes necessary during your trip.
- Routine maternity care (provided you did not go abroad to give birth).
- Medical treatment for mother and baby of an unexpected birth.
- Oxygen and kidney dialysis. (These treatments must be pre-booked before you go on holiday. Ask a GP or hospital for advice. Treatments with a private healthcare provider are not covered by EHIC.)
- Routine medical care for people with pre-existing conditions that need monitoring.
Do I still need travel insurance?
Absolutely. The government still advises that all British travellers have a suitable travel insurance policy—whether you have an EHIC or GHIC. And if you have travel insurance, you should also have an EHIC or GHIC. In fact, most travel insurance companies list this as a requirement that you have a card AND carry it with you when visiting the EU.