If you want to go on vacation abroad this summer, make sure you have a Global Health Insurance Card, or GHIC, in your possession. If you don’t have one, add it to your list, in addition to finding cheap airport parkingfind the best car rental deal for holidays and securing travel insurancebefore you embark on your journey.
Sarah Coles (opens in a new tab), a personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, says the crucial card ensures that when UK citizens travel to Europe they will have access to healthcare in the event of an emergency. “All countries covered by the card are committed to providing the same medical services to cardholders, under the same conditions and at the same cost as they do for people who live in that country,” she explains. .
Find out what Global Health Cards are, how they work, what they cover and where you can get one.
What is a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)?
A GHIC will essentially provide you with state-provided health care when you travel to Europe, on the same terms and at the same price as residents of the country you are in. For most vacationers and business travelers, that means if you have an accident or become ill while away and need emergency medical treatment, you’ll get it.
However, the GHIC will also cover treatment for any pre-existing medical conditions you may have, oxygen therapy, chemotherapy, and kidney dialysis. Maternity care is also included, as long as you did not travel for the express purpose of giving birth.
Sarah Smith (opens in a new tab)travel manager at LV= assurance générale, comments: “A global health insurance card is a good idea to have when you travel, as it gives access to medically necessary care under the reciprocal health care agreement. between the UK and the EU.
What is the difference between an EHIC and a GHIC?
The GHIC is simply the government’s replacement for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The EHIC is being phased out following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. The coverage provided by either of these cards is nothing new. Depending on your age, you may even remember trips to the Post Office to complete your E111 form, before going on vacation.
The GHIC essentially provides UK citizens with the same cover as the EHIC or the old E111. However, there are a few small differences; their importance will depend on where you plan to travel.
Confusingly, the GHIC does not provide worldwide coverage as its name might suggest. The EHIC and GHIC both focus on Europe, but there are some minor differences in terms of the countries they cover (see below for more information).
EHICs are valid for five years, so chances are you will still have a valid one. If so, you don’t have to rush to replace it and you can keep using it until the expiration date printed on the card.
What countries does a GHIC cover?
You can use your GHIC card in the 27 countries of the European Union and in Switzerland. Neither your GHIC nor an older EHIC can be used outside of Europe.
- Czech Republic
The UK EHIC can also be used in:
It is also important to note that British citizens are automatically entitled to medical treatment in the Republic of Ireland.
How long is the GHIC valid?
The GHIC is valid for five years, just like the EHIC – you can find the expiration date printed near the bottom right corner of the card. It’s a good idea to be aware of this date to avoid a last-minute panic – you might be able to set a reminder on your phone.
You can request the renewal of an EHIC or a GHIC up to six months before it expires.
If you have a valid EHIC, you can continue to use it until it expires.
Can I get a GHIC?
Sarah Smith of LV= says: “There are a number of criteria for applying, but GHICs are primarily available to UK residents, but each member of your family should have their own card.”
These criteria are:
- You live legally in the UK and do not have any cover provided by an EU country or Switzerland
- You reside in the EU or Switzerland with an S1, E121, E106, E109 or A1 registered document issued in the UK
- You are a dependent or a family member of a person who is entitled
How to apply for GHIC
The GHIC card is available free of charge and you can apply for it online via the NHS (opens in a new tab). In addition to basic information such as your name, address and date of birth, you will also need your national insurance number. You can also apply for other family members such as a spouse, partner or dependent children. If they are over 16, also make sure you have their national insurance number.
Your GHIC cards should normally arrive within 10 days of your request. However, the post-pandemic rush means you may have to wait a bit longer, so it’s always a good idea to apply a few weeks before you need it, or as soon as your current card runs out.
Personal finance expert Sarah Coles warns it’s important you only apply through official NHS channels to avoid GHIC scams: “You may come across unofficial websites that apply for GHICs on your behalf for a fee. . However, you should never have to pay for a GHIC – the official NHS application process is quick and easy and, best of all, free.
If you have used any of these websites you can report it to the NHS here (opens in a new tab).
Do I still need travel insurance if I have a GHIC?
If you have a GHIC, you may think you don’t need travel insurance. But the GHIC is no substitute for travel insurance, and experts advise having both for your peace of mind.
Cherry McMillan (opens in a new tab)travel insurance spokesperson for GoCompare, says: “Travel insurance should be included in everyone’s vacation, whether or not you have a Global Healthcare Card (GHIC).
“If the worst should happen and you need medical attention while on holiday, travel insurance will cover your costs. Without it, your bill could be as high as £1,000. If you’re considering relying on your Global Healthcare Card (GHIC ) to cover medical costs and not seek insurance, you may want to reconsider Your GHIC card will not cover you for private healthcare or for returning to the UK if you need be flown back in. As many countries do not have a free healthcare service like we have in the UK, private healthcare may be your only option in some places, in which case the GHIC will not cover the costs .
“And it’s not just the medical bills, travel insurance (opens in a new tab) also covers a range of other issues such as cancellations, disruptions, if your holiday is cut short unexpectedly and if something happens to your luggage or personal belongings.
On the other end of the spectrum, you shouldn’t assume you don’t need a GHIC or EHIC if you have a comprehensive travel insurance policy. So it’s better to have both, especially since the GHIC is free.
In some circumstances, your insurance company may also not charge you a deductible for any medical claim, if you were able to reduce the cost for them by using your GHIC or EHIC card.
What if I don’t have my GHIC or it doesn’t arrive on time?
If you lose your GHIC and need to use it while you are away, you can apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) here (opens in a new tab), or by calling +44 191 283 3909. This will do the exact same job as your GHIC. You can also use a PRC if you apply for a GHIC and do not receive it before your trip.