Can I Use my EHIC After Brexit to Get Healthcare in the EU?
If you’re planning to travel to an EU country for the first time since Brexit, your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will still be valid for a temporary stay. But what should you do when it expires, and what is its replacement?
If you’re going to an EU country for a short trip, you’ll still need a valid health insurance card to access free or discounted state healthcare if you’re ill or injured while you’re away.
Here’s how to make sure you’re protected on your trip, and what your UK-issued health insurance card can and can’t cover.
Is my EHIC still valid after Brexit?
Yes, you can still use a UK-issued EHIC after Brexit. So if you already have an EHIC and you’re going on a temporary visit to an EU country – perhaps for a holiday, to study or for work – you can use it to access state healthcare until it expires. The expiry date is on the front of the card, on the bottom right.
Though new EHICs are still being issued for a few groups, the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) is the post-Brexit replacement for the EHIC. If you’re a UK resident not insured by another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you should apply for a GHIC once your EHIC expires.
What do EHICs and GHICs cover?
You can use an EHIC or GHIC to get free or discounted, medically necessary state healthcare during a temporary visit to an EU country. So that’s healthcare that can’t wait until you’re back home.
- a visit to A&E or emergency treatment.
- treatment for a long-term or pre-existing condition.
- routine medical care to monitor a pre-existing condition.
- routine maternity care, if you're not going abroad to give birth.
- oxygen and kidney dialysis.
Not all healthcare is free
Bear in mind that not all state healthcare is free in the EU, and health systems can vary, depending on the country you’re visiting. This means you may have to pay for healthcare you’d usually get free on the NHS, in line with what residents of that country pay.
If you’re asked to pay for your care upfront and claim a refund later, keep receipts and paperwork that relate to your treatment, to help you apply for a refund when you get home. This will be in line with the rates of the country you had treatment in, and may not be the full amount. Contact Overseas Healthcare Services, and they'll send you a refund claim form by email or by post.
Some countries have a patient share policy, where you pay a contribution towards your care, such as the cost of a prescription. You can claim back the difference between the total bill and the patient share on your EHIC or GHIC, but not the patient share amount. It may be refundable on your travel insurance, though.
You can find out more about healthcare provided in each EU country in the government’s country healthcare guides.
Can I get a GHIC?
If you’re a UK resident travelling to the EU, and you’re not insured by an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, you can apply for a GHIC when your EHIC expires, or if you don’t already have either card.
How do I apply for a GHIC?
You can apply for a free GHIC through the NHS website, though a few groups need to apply by post. GHICs and EHICs cost you nothing if you apply through the NHS, so steer clear of unofficial websites that charge a fee.
When you apply, you’ll need to answer a few questions and supply details like your date of birth and your national insurance number, along with proof of address. Once you've sent the completed form, your card should arrive in the post within 10 days.
You can apply for a GHIC for your partner and children under 16 when you apply for yours. Each family member will need their own GHIC.
Can I apply for a new EHIC after Brexit?
If you got your UK-issued EHIC before 1 January 2021 and it’s still valid, you can only use it in EU countries. New EHICs are, however, also valid in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
Under the UK’s EU Withdrawal Agreement, a small number of people are eligible to apply for a new UK-issued EHIC. This includes if you’re a UK student who started living and studying in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland before 1 January 2021, and nationals of these countries who started living in the UK before then.
To check if you’re eligible to apply for a new EHIC, check the government website.
What happens if I don’t have my EHIC or GHIC with me?
If you need emergency healthcare in an EU country and you’ve lost your EHIC or GHIC, or your card has expired, you can get a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC). A PRC gives you the same cover as an EHIC or GHIC until you get home.
To apply for a PRC, you can call Overseas Healthcare Services on +44 (0)191 218 1999, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. You’ll need to have details like your national insurance number and where you’re being treated handy when you call. Or you can ask someone to call on your behalf.
If you don’t have an EHIC, GHIC or PRC, you’ll need to pay for your treatment in full.
Will I need travel insurance if I have a GHIC?
Yes, you’ll need both. EHICs and GHICs aren’t a replacement for travel insurance, which offers a wider level of cover. Travel insurance that includes healthcare can help cover private medical care costs if state care isn’t available, or if you’d prefer private care, flights back to the UK, losing your suitcase, cancelled flights, accidents or damage you’ve caused, and healthcare in non-EU countries, among other things.
You can check exactly what’s covered by the travel insurance policy by reading the terms and conditions. And if you’re not sure, ask the insurer what their policy does and doesn’t cover. That way, you’ll be clear about your level of protection and can avoid unexpected healthcare costs down the line.
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Holly champions clear, jargon-free writing. She’s been creating finance content for leading organisations for over 10 years, with expertise in insurance, wills and probate, and all things health. Read more