An EHIC, or European Health Insurance Card, entitles you to free or discounted medical treatment if you're in an EU citizen in an EU country.

European Health Insurance Card – what’s next?

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will be impacted by Brexit. We are sharing everything we know about developments as they occur.

Information correct as of 26 October 2020

Brits may not be eligible for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) after 31 December 2020. This will mean that Brits will lose access to healthcare currently provided by the EHIC. It’s crucial – especially during the coronavirus pandemic – that you have adequate health cover as part of your travel insurance if you’re travelling abroad. We have answers to questions you may have about your EHIC.

What is an EHIC?

The European Health Insurance Card (previously called the E111 card) is an EU initiative granting cardholders access to state healthcare in EU countries, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. If you have an EHIC and you fall ill or are injured in one of these countries, you are entitled to the same healthcare as citizens of that country.

This often means that healthcare would be provided for free or at very low cost. The EHIC doesn’t cover every eventuality. For instance, elective treatment, mountain rescue and medical repatriation are not provided for. It does not cover private treatment. The specifics of what is covered by the EHIC can differ by country, however there are many broad similarities. You can find out what is covered by visiting the EU’s website.

EHIC is not a replacement for travel cover. For the most comprehensive coverage, it’s important to have both an EHIC and travel insurance with health cover.

What happens to the EHIC after Brexit?

As the UK leaves the EU, Brits may lose access to EHIC coverage. UK travellers to participating countries can continue to use the benefits of the EHIC until 31 December 2020. After this time, Brits will have to rely exclusively on travel insurance to meet their healthcare needs. This emphasises the importance of having appropriate health cover for any trips you are taking overseas.

It is unlikely that the EHIC will continue regardless of the outcome of negotiations between the UK and EU, and it is sensible to plan accordingly. The UK may arrange reciprocal healthcare provision for travellers on a country-by-country bases in the future, however at time of writing, there is no detail on whether or not this will be the case.

Can I continue to use my EHIC after Brexit?

There are a handful of people who may continue to use their EHIC after 31 December 2020:

- UK students living in the EU prior to 31 December 2020 (use will continue until end of course)

- UK state pensioners living in the EU prior to 31 December 2020

- People who live in the UK but work in a participating state (known as ‘frontier workers’) for as long as they continue to work in the host state

- EU nationals

If you do not belong to one of these groups, then EHIC will not protect you after 31 December 2020. It’s important to plan accordingly.

What happens if I’m travelling on 31 December 2020?

If you have an EHIC and are travelling on 31 December, or you leave before the 31 December and return after, then your EHIC privileges will be maintained until you have returned to the UK.

How much does an EHIC cost?

The EHIC is free and should be applied for using the NHS website. There is no need to pay for an EHIC, so avoid unofficial websites that ask for payment. Applicants must be 16 or over and will need to create an account using the form. For those under 16, a parent or guardian will need to apply.

How can I renew my EHIC?

If your EHIC is due to expire, you can renew it using the same process as applying the first time on the NHS website. The same applies if your EHIC has been lost or stolen.

What happens if my EHIC is lost or stolen while I’m abroad?

If you lose your EHIC while away, you will need to apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate. This can be done by visiting the NHS website or by calling +44 (0)191 218 1999 from Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm.

What are the alternatives to EHIC?

Having good travel insurance before you travel is important. This was the case regardless of Brexit, but has been made more essential as a result.

Your health travel insurance should cover all of your potential medical needs, particularly if you have existing medical conditions. When buying your travel cover, answer all questions honestly and with as much detail as required, as failure to do so may result in any claims being rejected or not covering everything you have claimed for.

There are many reasons beyond health cover to buy travel insurance, for instance cancellation and curtailment; loss, damage to or theft of belongings; and other unforeseen eventualities. If you buy your travel insurance at the same time you book your trip, you may be covered from that point onwards. So if, for instance, your trip is cancelled before you leave or extenuating circumstances prevent you from going, you may be able to claim. Terms and conditions will apply.

Does travel insurance cover coronavirus or treatment for Covid-19?

The coronavirus pandemic has presented challenges to travel insurers, and each provider may have their own regulations around what is or isn’t covered in relation to infection. There are a number of things to consider, such as whether you would be covered if you became infected before you were due to travel or what would happen if you became ill while away.

Most insurers stipulate that you will not be covered if you travel to areas that the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO – formerly the Foreign & Commonwealth Office or FCO) has advised against travelling to. During the pandemic, the countries affected can change at short notice.

Insurers may also require that you have exhausted all other avenues for remuneration before making a claim, for instance by appealing to your airline or holiday provider. Before buying a policy, read the policy documents carefully to ensure you understand everything you are and are not covered for. Insurers are likely to have made special provisions for coronavirus – whether to increase or decrease coverage – and this could impact your choice of provider.