The UK government has officially launched the Global Health Insurance Card (Ghic), which will replace the European Health Insurance Card (Ehic).
UK residents can now apply for one of the Ghic cards, which will gradually replace the Ehic cards, which will be phased out in line with their expiry dates so travellers can still use when travelling to EU countries.
Both cards will offer equivalent protection for emergency and medically necessary healthcare needs when in the EU on a temporary stay, which includes holiday, study and business travel. The public only need to apply for their free Ghic cards when their current Ehic expires. The process is likely to take two weeks.
Under Britain’s post-Brext agreement with the EU, UK residents’ rights to emergency and medically necessary healthcare will continue when travelling in the EU. This includes medically necessary treatment for a pre-existing or chronic condition.
Health minister Edward Argar said: “Our deal with the EU ensures the right for our citizens to access necessary healthcare on their holidays and travels to countries in the EU will continue.
“The Ghic is a key element of the UK’s future relationship with the EU and will provide certainty and security for all UK residents.
“Cover for emergency and medically necessary healthcare is part of a wider healthcare agreement struck with the EU that will see continued cooperation on healthcare for UK residents.”
If a UK resident is travelling without a card, they are still entitled to necessary healthcare and should contact the NHS Business Services Authority, which can arrange for payment should they require treatment when abroad. EU member state Ehics will continue to be accepted by the NHS.
The UK government has said it is open to agreeing further reciprocal healthcare arrangements that can support UK residents when they travel, including outside of the EU.
The government always advises that anyone travelling overseas, whether to the EU or elsewhere in the world, should take out comprehensive travel insurance.
Consumer group Which? warned of “a number of unscrupulous copycat websites charging people to apply for free Ghics”, and urged travellers to apply directly via the NHS website.
Which? said the card covers “fewer countries than the Ehic” and advised travellers to check the eligible countries before their trips.
It echoed the government’s call for holidaymakers to also invest in travel insurance, “so they are covered for other issues that may arise such as cancellations and lost luggage”.
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