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What The GHIC Card Offers You When You Travel

Do you travel with a GHIC Card? Travelling to and from the EU has changed post-Brexit. However, travelling with a GHIC and suitable travel insurance should give you peace of mind.

Whether your EHIC is still in date, or you now have a GHIC, (which replaced the EHIC) we wanted to share some up-to-date travel advice and rules around this item on your travel kit list.

What is the difference between the EHIC and the GHIC?

Although GHIC cards have been available since the UK left the European Union, no healthcare arrangement existed for anyone travelling to Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein, and Switzerland from the UK. This was true if the traveller held either a current EHIC, or GHIC.

Spin forward to January 1st, 2024 and this all changed.

The UK Government now has Reciprocal Healthcare Arrangements with European Economic Area (EEA) European Free Trade Association (EFTA) States. These states are Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Bear in mind, that the UK can still negotiate with more countries to create reciprocal healthcare agreements. The UK Government website provides an up-to-date list which includes The Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

GHIC cards for travel to Europe

Are EHIC cards still valid?

Yes, as long as yours has time left before the expiry date. They last for five years but over 4 million are due to expire in 2024.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) continues to be phased out following the Brexit deal. You can still use an EHIC if it is in date. Once it expires you’ll need to replace it with the GHIC Card.

The GHIC card continues to be free for UK residents and UK Nationals. There are only a handful of countries where it will not work. The GHIC can be used in a majority of worldwide countries.

What else do I need to know about GHIC cards?

Make your application for a GHIC Card 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. Possibly chosen because it would expand to include other countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) post-Brexit.

Where can I use my GHIC Card today?

  • Countries in the European Economic Area
  • Montenegro
  • Australia (where you can claim Medicare
  • Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man
  • St Helena, Tristan and Ascension
  • In European Free Trade Association (EFTA) States – Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
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Do I need a GHIC card?

The GHIC is not mandatory for travel or UK student travel. However, some travel insurance policies may state that you should have one if you’re living in the UK.

While you do not need to have one, a GHIC will give you some degree of certainty, security, and peace of mind. You’ll receive additional protection while you travel, should you need it such as free or discounted medical care in state-run hospitals.

What is more, GHIC remains free, including delivery, and involves a very simple application process. Once you have applied you will receive a quick decision and it will be in your hands within two weeks. 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 treatment 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 before travel.

In short, the GHIC covers state-provided healthcare when you cannot reasonably wait until you are back in the UK to receive it. However, the healthcare provided is at a reduced cost – not for free.

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.

couple with their GHIC

What won’t a GHIC or EHIC cover me for?

  • Treatment that is not provided in a state hospital. Be aware of this if using a private healthcare setting.
  • If you’re going abroad specifically to get treatment neither of these cards will be of any use.
  • A GHIC/EHIC is a medical policy. Cancellation, delay, repatriation, baggage loss and theft will not be covered by a GHIC/EHIC.

A travel insurance policy will also not cover you where a suitable public facility can be used instead.

How do I apply for a GHIC?

This part is nice and simple. Navigate to the NHS website, where you can learn more. Then apply for your GHIC card.

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to order a GHIC card before departing.

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?

EHIC and 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.

A GHIC Card for children

How long does it take to get a GHIC Card?

If you apply today, it will take between 10 – 15 days to obtain a Health insurance card. However, it’s always wise to apply well in advance of your departure date. If you leave home without an in-date GHIC/EHIC for any reason, and require treatment you can apply for a ‘provisional replacement certificate‘ (PRC) for temporary cover.

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

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

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

A travel insurance policy will also not cover treatment at a private facility where a medically capable public facility exists. So it’s important that you contact the emergency assistance team on your travel insurance policy before receiving treatment to make sure you are being treated at the most suitable facility.

What was the link again?

Applications can be made on the NHS website. Keep a note of this for when your EHIC runs out.

Travel, with confidence with a GHIC Card

Always check the expiry date on your EHIC/GHIC before booking a break. Also, ensure your passport will be under 10 years old – on the day you enter the country. Failing to ensure both these documents are in date may lead to a claim not being paid out when you take out a travel insurance policy.

With an in-date EHIC/GHIC in place and your Free Spirit policy, you’ll have the freedom to travel, with confidence. Also, always review travel advice and tips before leaving home for peace of mind.

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