Over 5 million European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) expired in 2022 and are now replaced by the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). Here is all you need to know – including why you still need travel insurance!
What is a GHIC and where can I use it?
It is a Global Health Insurance Card, and although it uses the word Global, the GHIC is in fact only valid in EU countries (with the exception of a few*) and in most cases Switzerland too. It is not going to be of any use anywhere else in the world.
Fun fact: It’s all in the name. The Global part of the name signifies that the holder is not from an EU country. European Health Insurance Cards still exist – now called UK EHICS – so named because they are for use by citizens that have rights under the withdrawal agreement to access healthcare in EU countries). The GHIC – formally known as a UK GHIC – is a health insurance card for UK residents, no longer part of the EU, to access treatment in EU countries.
What does the UK Global Health Insurance Card cover?
Pretty much the same as the EHIC, but not as comprehensive in its cover. As a rule it entitles the holder to free or reduced cost state-provided healthcare where medically necessary. The wording here is key:
- State provided may or may not be free or reduced, the charges will be the same as for a national of that country.
- Free or reduced healthcare may not be the same things that are free on the NHS.
- Only treatments deemed medically necessary qualify for cover – if it could wait until you get back from your trip, or you have travelled in order to get treatment then you won’t be entitled to special rates.
Do I need travel insurance if I have a GHIC?
Yes! The above bullet points are just some of the reasons why the .gov site states:
“Your UK GHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance. You should take out private travel insurance before your trip. [The GHIC] may not cover all health costs and never covers being flown back to the UK (medical repatriation).” Find out more at gov.uk
Outside the UK many medical treatments do not come for free – even for citizens of that country. Additional charges may be added to a hospital bill that we aren’t used to seeing in the UK, including charges for equipment, supplies, food, medicines… and that can all add up.
GHICs also won’t cover things like mountain rescue if you are injured on a ski trip for example, and the big expenses such as medical repatriation are also not covered.
Travel Insurance also offers things a medical insurance card can’t – travel insurance for existing medical conditions, help if your passport or belongings are lost or stolen, costs incurred from cancelled flights or bookings, and even if personal circumstances mean that you are no longer able to travel. Travel insurance is a product that compliments a GHIC, providing cover and peace of mind especially for existing health conditions and unforeseen circumstances beyond falling ill or being injured.
Can I still use my EHIC?
If it is still valid, then yes – the last EHICS were issued in 2020 (the GHIC replaced it in January 2021) and have been allowed to run up to their 5 year expiry date. However, all EHICs now fall under the restricted use of GHICs, so no longer valid in non-EU European countries e.g. Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein. As stated above, UK EHICS are also available to those who have been allowed special access under the withdrawal agreement.
GHICs are free – so get one!
There are a few sites out there that are charging people a handling fee to get a GHIC, this is not necessary – GHICS are available directly from via the NHS and they are FREE – you can apply for GHIC on the NHS website. Once you apply you will be sent an email with all the details you need until your card arrives, make sure you take your card with you while on holiday – if you find that you’ve lost it or left it behind you’ll need to apply for a temporary certificate.
*The GHIC isn’t valid in Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican. It is not valid for treatment in Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein either.
Don’t forget your travel insurance!
Travel insurance is a product that compliments a GHIC, providing cover and peace of mind especially for existing health conditions and unforeseen circumstances beyond falling ill or being injured.
Get your travel insurance quote online today.
This article was originally published in October 2022. The content has been updated.