The European Health Insurance Card (or EHIC) gives access to state-provided healthcare treatment in the EU. However, the end of the Brexit transition period means several changes to the relationship between the UK and EU, including this widely used European medical card. We’ve outlined the key changes and questions surrounding the EHIC and what they mean for British expats.
Are European Health Insurance Cards Still Valid After Brexit?
If you already have an EHIC card (which lasts for up to 5 years) it will be valid until its expiry date. However, the end of the Brexit transition period meant that (with a few exceptions), the UK is no longer issuing the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
The EHIC is being phased out and replaced with a new card – the UK Global Health Insurance Card, or GHIC. that (with a few exceptions), the UK is no longer issuing the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Find out more about what Brext means for expats here.
How does the Global Health Insurance Card work?
The GHIC works in the same way as the EHIC. It a european medical card that gives temporary visitors from the UK access to emergency medical care and routine care at the same cost as a resident of the EU country they are visiting. So if that care is free, the cardholder will get it for free. If treatment is normally paid for, they will have to pay too.
The GHIC can also cover routine maternity care (provided the person hasn’t travelled abroad specifically to give birth) and routine care for pre-existing conditions if necessary during a visit. Despite the name, the GHIC is only valid in the EU, not worldwide.
Is the GHIC for UK expats?
The GHIC is available to people who are ordinarily resident in the UK. So if you’re a UK national living abroad on a permanent basis, you probably won’t be able to use the GHIC or a UK-issued EHIC, but there are some exceptions.
Some UK nationals living abroad and EU nationals living in the UK will still be able apply for a new UK-issued EHIC. These include:
- UK students studying in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland who have been there since before 1 January 2021
- UK State Pensioners who have a registered S1 form or E121
- Workers posted to work in another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland by a UK employer, who have been there since before 1 January 2021
- Some dual UK/EU nationals
- EU, Swiss, Norwegian, Icelandic or Liechtenstein citizens who have been living in the UK since before 1 January 2021
For a full list, see the NHS website.
If you’re a UK citizen living in an EU country, you might be able to use an EHIC issued in that country for visits to other EU destinations.
See UK government advice for expats on accessing state-provided healthcare in the EU.
What countries does the GHIC cover?
The GHIC and EHIC medical cards were designed to provide cover in all EU countries – however, both have some exclusions.
|The Channel Islands||Not covered|
|The Isle of Man||Not covered|
|San Marino||Not covered|
|the Vatican||Not covered|
*Old EHICs won’t give you cover in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland unless you were on a visit there before 1 January 2021.
How much does the UK EHIC cost?
It is absolutely free. If you are a UK or Irish citizen who lives in the UK, you can apply for a GHIC on the NHS website.
Avoid any sites that ask you to pay for the Global or European Health Insurance Card.
Do I need a European medical card?
It’s not compulsory to hold either of these medical cards in order to travel through or to Europe.
However, having the Global or European medical cards provides you with proof that you’re entitled to free emergency medical care. Whilst you won’t be refused emergency care, you could end up with a huge bill after treatment. Given that these cards are free – they provide great peace of mind when travelling in the EU.
Can I still get a European Health Insurance Card card?
Most people in the UK are not eligible for a newly issued European Health Insurance Card. The UK government phasing them out.
If however, you meet specific criteria you can apply for a new EHIC from the UK Government. That includes you if you’re an EU, Swiss, Norwegian, Icelandic or Liechtenstein citizen, and you’ve been living in the UK since before 1 January 2021.
If you are eligible for a newly issued EHIC, you will benefit from cover in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Old EHIC cardholders and GHIC cardholders will not be eligible for cover in those 4 countries.
Do I need additional health insurance if I have the UK or European Health Insurance Card?
The GHIC and EHIC only provide access to state-provided healthcare. They also only cover ‘necessary healthcare’ – that is healthcare that can’t wait until you’re back in the UK.
Travel insurance with medical cover gives access to private healthcare and can also cover repatriation if you need to be brought back to the UK or another home country.
International health insurance can give you access to private healthcare in multiple countries, whether you live or work abroad, or spend lots of time travelling.
Which is the best international health insurance?
The best international health insurance for you will depend on your situation and the level of cover you want. At William Russell, we provide a truly personalised service for expats with a range of health insurance policies that allow you to choose options to suit your lifestyle.