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European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

An EHIC gives you free or discounted medical treatment within the European Economic Area (EEA). No new cards will now be issued but the scheme's been replaced by the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) – here’s what you need to know.

Amy Smith
Amy Smith
Updated 7 January 2020  | 4 min read

What is the EHIC?

The European Health Insurance Card entitles you to free, or reduced-rate, medical treatment in all EEA countries. That's the European Union plus Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

You don’t get an EHIC automatically – you need to apply for it. But post-Brexit, EHIC's will eventually be replaced with a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), so it's likely you'll be applying for a new GHIC instead. 

Key points

  • The EHIC will be replaced by the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). But your current EHIC is still valid until it expires
  • Although it’s free, you don’t get a GHIC automatically – you need to apply for it
  • An EHIC or GHIC isn't a replacement for travel insurance
  • Each member of a travelling party needs their own card

What does my EHIC cover?

Your EHIC entitles you to state-provided medical treatment if you fall ill or have an accident in any EU country, or in Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, where the scheme also applies.

You can access treatment for pre-existing medical conditions and routine maternity care, as well as emergency care.

Individuals with chronic illnesses – for example those who require dialysis – can travel knowing they will receive treatment on the same terms as the citizens of the country they’re visiting.

Now the UK has left the European Union (EU), your access to healthcare in the EU will probably change, so it’s even more important you get the right travel insurance

Is my EHIC still valid after Brexit?

Yes, your EHIC will remain valid until it expires. Once your EHIC expires, you'll need to apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) to replace it. You don't need to apply for both an EHIC and a GHIC.

Unlike the EHIC, the GHIC only covers you in EU countries – you won't be covered in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.

Who can still apply for a new UK EHIC?

If you're covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, you might need to apply for a new UK EHIC instead of a GHIC. Find out if you're eligible or apply for a new UK EHIC on the NHS website.

My EHIC has expired. How do I get a GHIC?

If your EHIC has expired or you've never had one, you can apply for a GHIC on the NHS website, which is free. 

There are websites that'll try to charge you to manage your GHIC or EHIC application but the process is easy. You shouldn’t need to pay for help.

It could take a week or two for your application to be processed and the card to be posted to you.

Do I also need travel insurance if I have an EHIC card?

Yes - your EHIC card isn’t a replacement for travel insurance

It’s a useful addition but it won't cover you for care in private medical facilities, or repatriation back to the UK if you need it.

Most EU countries don't have healthcare systems like the NHS, so you'll only be able to get private treatment.

Without travel insurance, you'd have to cover those costs for yourself.

You should buy travel insurance with healthcare cover before you go on holiday.

Travel insurance policies are designed to provide cover for many eventualities, including medical expenses, a trip being cut short or cancelled, and loss or theft of possessions.

It’s advisable to take out an insurance policy as soon as possible after booking your trip, to make sure you’re covered in the event of any changes before you depart.

When taking out travel insurance you should also check:

  • the level of healthcare cover it includes
  • the travel disruption cover it includes
  • the terms and conditions

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