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EHIC, GHIC and Travel Insurance: An Essential Guide

An EHIC and GHIC card is an essential piece of travel documentation if you are travelling within the European Economic Union. It replaces the old E111 form; however it is not a replacement for travel insurance. In this guide we’ll explain what the EHIC and GHIC cards are able to protect you for and where travel insurance can plug the gaps. 
The EHIC and GHIC cards entitles the card holder to reduced-cost and in some cases free emergency medical treatment when you are travelling within certain European countries. The EHIC replaced the E111 form. The EHIC has recently been replaced by the GHIC.

A European Health Insurance Card entitles the holder to reduced-cost, sometimes free, emergency treatment within the following EU countries:

Austria, Belgium, Cyprus (but not in North Cyprus), Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Since the UK left the EU, in the vast majority of cases the EHIC has been replaced by the GHIC. Although some new EHIC applications are being processed is certain conditions are met related to the Brexit withdrawal agreement.

EHIC cards that have yet to expire are still valid until that expiry date, after which you’ll need to reapply for the GHIC.

You should be aware that if you still have a valid UK-issued EHIC, it no longer provides cover for Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland unless you were already on a visit there before 1 January 2021.

The Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) is the new replacement for the EHIC.

Despite being called the Global Health Insurance Card, it is currently only effective in Europe. The main difference between the two is that Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland which were covered under the EHIC are no longer covered by the GHIC.

As a UK citizen all applications made from January 2021 will be for the GHIC unless you remain eligible for the EHIC under the provisions set out in the EU withdrawal agreement. 

Under the Brexit withdrawal agreement announced in December 2020, existing EHICs remain valid until their expiry dates. This means that if you have an EHIC issued before 1st January 2021, you will still be able to use your EHIC to access healthcare within EU states until the expiry date on your card. However, they are no longer eligible for cover in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland unless you were already on a visit there before 1 January 2021.

As a UK resident both the EHIC and GHIC cards allow you to access state healthcare when you are travelling to the European Union. This agreement is reciprocal so European travellers to the UK can also access the NHS should they need treatment whilst here.

Having an EHIC or GHIC card provides the holder to reduced-cost and sometimes free emergency treatment.

Getting an EHIC or GHIC is free and is recommended even if you have travel insurance in place. In some cases your travel insurer may require you to have one in place. 

The EHIC and GHIC cards are designed to help should you require emergency medical assistance when in Europe. With that being the case there are some areas where they will be unable to help, some such cases are:

  • Private hospital treatment: The EHIC and GHIC only provide cover for state-run hospitals, if you choose treatment at a private hospital you will be liable for the full cost of treatment. It is important to note in a medical emergency you may have no control over the hospital you are taken to and the closest hospital may be private.
  • Elective treatment: Cover is for emergency treatment only, so if you are heading to Europe specifically to get treatment for a medical condition then this may not be covered under the EHIC or GHIC card.
  • If you have gone overseas specifically to give birth: Much like the reason above, if you have planned a trip to receive treatment including giving birth then you won’t be covered under the EHIC or GHIC. You will, however, be able to receive routine care related to your pregnancy.
  • Repatriation to the UK: Should you want, or need, to come home to the UK to receive treatment then the costs of bringing you back to the UK is not covered under EHIC or GHIC. Nor will it be able to provide cover for a relative to stay or fly out to be with you.
  • Non healthcare related issues: GHIC and EHIC cards are purely for healthcare so should you encounter any other travel related issues such as lost baggage, delays or cancellations you will not be covered.
You can apply for an EHIC or GHIC card on the official  website or by calling them on 0300 330 1350.

You could also download and print the application form from the NHS website and send the completed form to:
NHS Business Services Authority, European Health Insurance Card, EHIC Applications, Bridge House, 152 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 6SN.

Yes. Every member of the family needs their own card. If your child is under 16 years old you will need to apply on their behalf. You can also apply on behalf of your partner.

You can apply for a EHIC or GHIC for free via the NHS website. There is a slight delay currently on processing applications, so it is best to plan at least 4 weeks before you plan to travel in order to ensure it arrives in time for your trip. 

You will need the following information for every person you are applying for:

•    Full name
•    Date of birth
•    NI or NHS number (CHI number in Scotland, or Health and Care   Number in Northern Ireland)

It is advisable to have your card with you at all times, in case of an emergency.

However, if you find yourself without it in an emergency, you may be able to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate by calling the Overseas Healthcare Team on 00 44 191 218 1999 (Monday to Friday, 8am–5pm). It's a good idea to save this number in your phone.
In some countries you may be required to pay a patient contribution upfront, which you may be able to claim back at a later date. Keep all receipts and documentation.

The EHIC and GHIC are not substitutes for travel insurance, instead they can work in tandem with each other.

Travel insurance offers altogether more comprehensive protection for travellers than the EHIC or GHIC. Whilst they focus on emergency healthcare provided by the state, travel insurance can provide cover for private treatment and repatriation to the UK for further treatment.

Together with the medical assistance, travel insurance can also protect against other travel related issues such as cancellation, curtailment, lost baggage, delayed flights and much more.

Find out more about what our travel insurance offers.

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