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 60 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 December 31st.
January 2021 Update – the EHIC has now been replaced with an equivalent, which can be applied for now. Please read our GHIC card blog to find out more.
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 cardholder 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, there are signs that there may be a future ‘reciprocal healthcare agreement’ between the EU and the UK. This will need to be agreed as part of any deal being agreed by 31st December. Also, there is no guarantee it will be the same as the current agreement; it may even be separate from the EHIC.
Should I renew my EHIC before Brexit?
Since there’s still time for the UK to agree on 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.
We remain hopeful that UK travellers will be able to continue to benefit from the scheme beyond 2020. For that reason, it is worth renewing your EHIC. Then, if there is an agreement on this before the transition period comes to a close, your EHIC will continue without interruption.
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.
You will have until the end of 31st December to renew your EHIC – but remember, you can only do so if there are less than 6 months remaining on it.
The importance of travel insurance
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 European Health Insurance Card 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. With one of our policies you can 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.