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The GHIC Card: What is it and How Do You Get One?

Now that brexit has passed and a new deal with the EU is in place, we are all aware that some things will change. Nowhere more so than when we travel to and from the EU. One of the key changes is that the EHIC will no longer be available to UK residents.

The good news is that this is not something to be unduly concerned about. The EHIC has been replaced by an equivalent scheme: the GHIC card.

What is the difference between the EHIC and the GHIC?

In short, not much. As part of the brexit agreement, the UK and EU made the reciprocal healthcare arrangement that all travellers were hoping for. The only change is that no healthcare arrangement exists for anyone travelling to Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Switzerland. This is true if the traveller holds either a current EHIC, or a new GHIC.

In saying that, these countries could be added to the GHIC arrangement in the future. The UK can negotiate with any other country to put a reciprocal healthcare agreement in place.

Are EHIC cards still valid in 2021?

Is the EHIC card still valid – yes, as long as yours has time left before the expiry date.

Once it expires, you can replace it with a GHIC card.

Travel to Europe - Get Your GHIC card 2 weeks before you go

Are EHIC cards still available?

The last date to apply for or renew an EHIC card was the 31st December 2020. However, the GHIC card replaces it, which is exactly the same and also free to UK residents.  Just remember there are a handful of countries where it will not work (see above).

What about GHIC cards?

The GHIC is available now. Applications can be made on the official GHIC website. Beware any unofficial ones you may come across or any that ask for payment; the GHIC is always free to UK residents.

What does GHIC mean?

GHIC stands for Global Health Insurance Card. Some suspect this name was chosen because in the future it may expand to include other countries outwith Europe. New Zealand and Australia have been mentioned although discussions are still at a very early stage.

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Do I need a GHIC card?

The GHIC is not mandatory for travel. However, some travel insurance policies may require that you have one.

While you do not need to have one, a GHIC will give you some degree of certainty, security and peace of mind. You will benefit from an additional protection in place while you travel, should you need it.

What is more, it is free and involves a very simple application process. It seems a no-brainer to have it in your pocket when you travel to any participating country.

What does it give me?

A GHIC card can cover you when you are in participating countries for:

  • emergency treatment, including visits to accident & emergency departments
  • treatment for long-term and pre-existing medical conditions.
  • routine medical care for pre-existing conditions that need monitoring.
  • routine maternity care, as long as there is no intention to give birth while abroad.
  • oxygen and kidney dialysis, although this type of treatment may need to be arranged with the healthcare provider prior to travel.

In short, the GHIC will cover state-provided healthcare when you cannot reasonably wait until being back in the UK to receive it.

That mention of state-provided is very important to note and applies to existing EHIC cards too. Private healthcare is not included. It is a good idea to familiarise yourself with healthcare providers in the vicinity when you travel.

Of course, if you find yourself in a situation where only private facilities are available, your travel insurance will be invaluable. More about that later.

Travel to Europe - get your GHIC once your EHIC expires.

How do I apply for a GHIC?

This part is nice and simple. Click this link to navigate to the NHS website, where you can learn more then apply for your GHIC card. When you complete your application, it will take about 10 days to arrive – so make sure to apply at least 2 weeks before you travel.

Remember, if you still have a valid EHIC with time left until it expires, this is still valid. It is only when the EHIC card expires that you will have to replace it with a GHIC.

Who can apply?

GHIC cards are available to all UK residents. Each member of your travelling party will need their own – they are issued per individual. Also, parents will need to make applications on behalf of under 16s.

Do I need travel insurance when I have a GHIC card?

Travel insurance is still strongly recommended by the government. While the EHIC/GHIC will provide healthcare in a lot of scenarios, you will still require adequate travel insurance to ensure you are fully covered.

For example, the EHIC will not cover private healthcare provision. So if you are taken to a private facility, or a public facility is not viable or available, you will foot the bill. In some areas of Europe – especially remote or mountain-based locations (especially apt for winter sports enthusiasts) only private facilities may be available.

Additionally, if you require repatriation home for medical reasons, it is not provided for by the GHIC. For that, you will need travel insurance in place.

You can read more here about the difference between EHIC/GHIC and travel insurance on our blog.

What was the link again?

Applications can be made here.

Keep a note of this and when your EHIC runs out, make your GHIC application at least two weeks before you depart on your next trip. With this and your Free Spirit policy in place, you have the freedom to travel with confidence!

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