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Out With the EHIC And in With the GHIC: What is the New UK Global Health Insurance Card?

Hot off the UK Government's press is the announcement of the new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), to replace the European Health Insurance Card, for UK residents travelling overseas. One of the concerns relating to Brexit was that not only would we lose our unfettered rights to work, live, and study in any EU country, but we would also lose access to the reciprocal health insurance scheme. The announcement of the new GHIC scheme is, at the time of writing, only hours old. In this article, we will discuss what the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) is, who can use it, where it can be used, and the benefits it provides.

What Is The Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)?

The announcement by the UK Government on the new GHIC card stated, "UK residents will now be able to apply for a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), the government announced today. Under Britain's new agreement with the EU, UK residents' rights to emergency and medically necessary healthcare will continue when travelling in the EU. This includes medically necessary treatment for a pre-existing or chronic condition". The GHIC card covers care and treatment, such as:

  • emergency treatment and visits to A&E
  • treatment for a long-term or pre-existing medical condition
  • routine medical care for pre-existing conditions that need monitoring
  • routine maternity care, as long as you're not going abroad to give birth
  • oxygen and kidney dialysis

What will come as great relief to many is that pre-existing and chronic conditions are covered, meaning that UK residents travelling to the EU will not need to apply for potentially expensive private health insurance.

Interestingly the announcement also confirms that those with current (i.e. non-expired) EHIC cards will be able to continue to use them when travelling to the EU; "Current European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) are valid as long as they are in date and people can continue to use these when travelling to the EU. The public only need to apply for their new GHIC when their current EHIC expires. Both cards will offer equivalent protection for emergency and medically necessary healthcare needs when in the EU on a temporary stay, which includes holiday, study and business travel". In other words, if you already have an EHIC card which will cover the length of your intended travel to an EU country, you will not need to apply for the GHIC card.

Another feature of the new system is that if you are in the EU and you don't have an EHIC or GHIC card with you, you will be able to obtain a provisional replacement certificate (PRC) to allow you to access healthcare.

How Do I Obtain A GHIC Card?

Like the EHIC card, you will need to apply to obtain a GHIC card – it is recommended that this is done at least two weeks prior to travel to ensure it arrives in time. The application process is completed online and is free. According to the dedicated NHS GHIC website, some UK residents will need to submit their application by post, but only in very limited circumstances (see below for further details).

The GHIC card is available to UK residents regardless of their nationality, as long as they are not already insured by an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland; as the GHIC website confirms, "You are not entitled to a GHIC if you're insured by an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland but live in the UK. You should contact the relevant authority in the country you're insured by and request an EHIC".

As with the EHIC card, each person in a family needs to have their own GHIC card. The main applicant can apply on behalf of their spouse/partner and children under the age of 16.

Who Needs To Apply For A GHIC Card In Writing?

Most people will be able to apply online, however, in some circumstances, an application will need to be completed in writing and submitted by post. This includes UK students planning to study in the EU because the GHIC must be time-limited to the duration of the course. The GHIC application form can be found on the GHIC website. Students will also need to provide a letter from their university or college confirming the following details:

  • name and address of the UK educational institution (if you're going as part of a UK course)
  • address of where you're studying in the EU
  • details of the qualification you're studying for
  • dates your course started and is due to finish

Non-British and non-Irish nationals will also need to submit their application by post as further evidence of eligibility will be required.

Can I Apply For A New EHIC Card?

Some people will still be eligible to apply for a replacement EHIC card, including (this also applies to dependants):

  • EU, Swiss, Norwegian, Icelandic or Liechtenstein citizens, who have been living in the UK since before 1 January 2021
  • UK State Pensioners or those receiving some other exportable benefits, who have a registered S1 form or E121
  • frontier workers
  • a worker posted to work in another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland by a UK employer (they must have been there since before 1 January 2021)
  • UK students studying in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, and you've been there since before 1 January 2021

New EHIC's will also be available to dual nationals.

Wrapping Up

The new GHIC card will provide considerable benefits to UK residents travelling to the EU. While it is true that these are the same benefits as enjoyed with an EHIC card, the fact that we have such a scheme post-Brexit will come as a welcome relief for many. It is important to remember that you will still need to hold travel insurance, and in some cases, it may be a prerequisite of being given cover that you have a GHIC card.

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