The Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) replaces the EHIC. It offers cover for necessary medical treatment in the European Union, either at a reduced cost or for free. This guide explains where you can use it, what it will cover you for and what to do with your current EHIC.
The GHIC is the successor to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Unlike its predecessor, it is not valid in EEA countries or Switzerland and, despite its name, does not entitle you to medical treatment in countries outside of the EU.
The NHS states that the GHIC “gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in the European Union”. Effectively, you will be afforded the same care a resident of the host country would receive. This applies to temporary stays only, such as a holiday, study or business travel. It remains free to apply for the card.
Yes, your current UK-issued EHIC will remain valid until its expiry. Then, you should apply for a GHIC. However, on January 1, 2021, the EHIC lost its validity in EEA countries and Switzerland. It now only offers the same EU-only cover as the GHIC.
In some circumstances, such as if you are a frontier worker or student studying in the EU before January 1, 2021, your old EHIC and new UK-issued EHICs will continue to cover you under the old system. Find out more on the NHS website.
The GHIC is valid within anywhere within the EU. It is not valid in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. Until a new agreement is settled on, you are still entitled to necessary medical treatment in Norway (show your passport). The UK government has said that it is working towards agreements with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
The GHIC is not valid in the Channel Islands (including Guernsey, Alderney and Sark), the Isle of Man, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican.
The Global Health Insurance Card is completely free. The only place you need to go to register for a GHIC is the NHS’s official website. You should receive your card within ten days of your application.
Some scam sites claim to provide GHIC for a fee – do not use these sites. Any site asking for payment is not legitimate.
If you are applying from Northern Ireland, from spring 2021, you will have a choice between card with the standard union flag and one with a plain background.
The most important thing to know about the GHIC is that it is not an alternative to travel insurance. There are certain things that a GHIC entitles you to, and others that only a comprehensive travel insurance policy will take care of. Remember, other countries may not offer the same level of cover and service as the NHS, and some countries require patients to make a contribution towards the cost of their care. Plus, travel insurance can offer protection for many other aspects of your holiday, such as cancellation or the loss of your possessions.
Ultimately, having both will provide you with the best possible medical cover for a holiday in EU countries.
What the GHIC covers:
For all of the above instances, you will be covered until your planned return. However, if medical care is the specific reason for your travels, this will not apply: the GHIC is for emergencies only.
What the GHIC does not cover:
The UK has a number of reciprocal healthcare agreements in place with countries outside of the EU and EEA. These agreements usually work in a similar way to the EHIC, allowing Britons to receive state healthcare from the host country for free or at a reduced rate. The only difference is that you do not need a card – you will probably need to take your passport with you to the hospital or doctor.
The UK has reciprocal agreements with Anguilla, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the British Virgin Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Monserrat, New Zealand, St Helena, Serbia, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
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