The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) has been a longstanding fixture of European travel that gives travelers peace of mind that they can receive immediate medical attention regardless of insurance coverage. However, research has greatly unveiled a significant disparity between British citizens who are in possession of this European health insurance card and those who do not, thereby leaving millions of travelers at a greater risk or highly vulnerable. The primary reason for this coverage gap is a misunderstanding of the purpose and coverage of the EHIC.
To bridge this knowledge gap, Insurance Business is aimed at educating UK residents on how the European Health Insurance Card works, its benefits, and the changes since Brexit. If you are still in doubt or debating the worthiness of this health insurance card, this article can help clear your doubts, while also serving as a starting point for an important conversation with an insurance client.
What is the European Health Insurance Card?
One of the important aspects to understand is that the EHIC allows cardholders to access “medically necessary, state-provided healthcare” for free or at a reduced cost in European Union (EU) member nations, according to the European Commission’s website.
Following the UK’s exit from the EU, the government went on to introduce the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) as a replacement for the EHIC, thereby providing UK residents with the same healthcare access in EU countries.
However. it is worth noting that existing European Health Insurance Cards will expire in four years, and those who apply for renewal will be issued a GHIC. In the meantime, EHIC holders can continue to utilize their cards until termed as not useful or expired.
What Does the European Health Insurance Card Cover?
The EHIC and GHIC cover the cost of immediate, emergency, or essential medical care when traveling to EU member states or Switzerland.
Medically necessary healthcare is defined as treatment that cannot reasonably wait until one returns to the UK, including emergency care, hospital visits, long-term or pre-existing medical problem treatment, pre-existing condition monitoring, routine maternity care (excluding giving birth overseas), therapy with oxygen, and kidney dialysis.
However, it’s worth noting that while these health insurance cards provide coverage, the specific services covered and whether they are free or require payment may vary depending on the healthcare system of the country being visited. Ultimately, the healthcare provider in the visiting country determines whether a treatment is necessary or not.
Who is eligible for a European Health Insurance Card and how to get it?
Eligibility criteria for the GHIC include being a legal resident of the UK without healthcare coverage through an EU member country or Switzerland, having a registered $1 form issued by the UK government as a resident of the EU or Switzerland, possessing an A1 certificate and living in the EU or Switzerland, or being a family member or dependent of one of the entitled individuals.
On the other hand, certain individuals can still renew their EHIC if they meet specific conditions. Identification of the new UK EHIC can be done by the recognition of the Union flag hologram.
Is my European Health Insurance Card still valid after Brexit?
It’s quite important to carefully note that the GHIC and most EHICs no longer provide the same coverage in Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway after Brexit, except for individuals who were in these countries before January 1, 2021.
Norway, however, still allows UK passport holders to receive free or reduced-cost medical care. Regarding the validity of EHIC or GHIC in the UK, they are not valid for residents of the UK, as citizens can receive free medical treatment through the National Health Service (NHS) that funded publicly.
How much does a European Health Insurance Card cost?
Contrary to a common or general misconception, the EHIC and GHIC are FREE OF CHARGE, and so cost no dime. Any websites or agencies requesting payment for these health insurance cards are likely misleading applicants.
Individuals who are aged 16 and above can apply for the cards through the NHS website and must create an account using the NHS form. Applicants who are under 16 years old will need a parent or guardian to apply on their behalf.
What happens if you don’t have your EHIC or GHIC with you?
In the event that one does not have their EHIC or GHIC with them, they can obtain a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) from the NHS Overseas Healthcare Services to receive medically necessary healthcare.
This PRC offers the same benefits as the EHIC and GHIC. The application for a PRC requires providing personal information along with the details of the treatment facility and the specific department of the healthcare provider.
Can EHIC or GHIC replace travel insurance?
While the EHIC and GHIC can be utilized in medical emergencies, they do not replace the need for separate travel insurance. Travel insurance policies offer comprehensive coverage beyond medical treatment, including trip cancellation and interruption, lost or delayed luggage, flight delays, personal liability, and legal expenses.
Therefore, rather than considering the health insurance cards as a replacement for travel insurance, they should be seen as a supplement to travel insurance policies.