If, like approximately two thirds of Brits, you have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you may have wondered if you’ll still be able to use it after Brexit. At the time of publishing this blog, there are less than 70 days until the UK is set to leave the European Union (EU), and still no sign of a deal that will outline our ongoing relationship with the remaining 27 member states. So, as it stands, we still don’t know whether the EHIC will continue to be effective after March 29.
With this in mind, what should you do if your EHIC is due to expire soon? Is it still worth renewing it? Although the post-Brexit future of the EHIC is still uncertain, we’ve looked into the issue of EHIC renewal to bring you the most up-to-date guidance.
About the EHIC
The EHIC is free of charge and entitles the card holder to free or reduced-cost healthcare within most countries in the EU. The EHIC scheme does not include some areas such as Monaco, Vatican City, San Marino, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, although it does include non-EU countries Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
At the moment, the EHIC is valid for five years and can be renewed up to six months before its expiry date.
The EHIC after Brexit
As we’ve discussed in a previous blog about the possible impact of Brexit on travel for UK tourists, there is currently no official plan in place for the continuation of the EHIC scheme after March 29. Having said that, if the UK leaves the EU with an agreed withdrawal deal, it’s thought that the existing EHIC arrangement will stand until at least December 2020; the end of the official Brexit implementation phase. On the other hand, if there is a no-deal Brexit, it looks as though the UK will no longer have access to the EHIC scheme, leaving UK-based EHIC holders without the healthcare entitlements we’ve previously had within the EU.
Should I renew my EHIC before Brexit?
Since there’s still time for the UK to agree a withdrawal deal from the EU, and UK travellers will continue to have access to the EHIC scheme at least until the end of 2020, our advice would be to go ahead and renew your EHIC. Of course, there are no guarantees that you will definitely be able to use it, but we’d say it’s worth having a valid card in the event that the UK’s access to the EHIC scheme continues.
How do I renew my EHIC?
At the time of writing this article, there has been no change to the EHIC application or renewal system, so you can still renew your EHIC online as usual. Remember – it’s free to renew an EHIC, or to apply for a new one – be aware of unofficial application or renewal sites that may charge a fee.
This is the official government website for EHIC, you can apply to renew your card here. You will need to register to use the website first, then you can log in to the EHIC Services Portal to submit your renewal request.
Brexit uncertainty reinforces the importance of travel insurance
With all the Brexit speculation, it remains that UK visitors to Europe may soon lose their right to the EHIC scheme, and with it their access to free or reduced-cost healthcare within the EU. Although the EHIC is no substitute for a travel insurance policy (there are several vital elements of cover that the EHIC does not provide), not being able to rely on the EHIC makes having travel insurance for trips to Europe even more essential.
Travelling to Europe without the EHIC or a suitable travel insurance policy in place would leave you unprotected from the potentially sky-high medical expenses you could run up if you were to have an accident or need medical care while overseas. At Free Spirit, we specialise in offering travel insurance for people of any age with pre-existing health conditions and/or disabilities, so you could take your next European trip safe in the knowledge that you will be able to access the medical care you need, should you need it, and that you won’t be left with the bill.
Planning a European holiday soon? Apply for a no-obligation travel insurance quote from us now, either online or by calling us on 02392 419 080. Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am – 6pm, excluding Bank Holidays.