European and Global Health Insurance Cards

On 1 January 2021, the European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) was replaced with the UK Global Health Insurance Card (Ghic) for all EU countries. If you’ve already applied or wish to apply for an Ehic, you’ll now receive the new Ghic instead in most cases.

Both are valid if you’re visiting an EU country. Here, we’ve outlined what’s changing, the healthcare cover these cards provide in Europe and what extra protection you may need on your travels there.

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What is the Ehic?

The European Health Insurance Card (previously called the E111) is an EU initiative that grants access to emergency and state healthcare in EU countries for free or at a reduced cost. It's now been replaced by the Ghic (see below).

Despite the UK’s transition out of the EU, you can still use your existing Ehic in EU countries until its expiry date, whenever that is.

What is the Ghic?

The UK Global Health Insurance Card is the Ehic’s replacement from 1 January 2021. It gives you the same access to healthcare in EU countries as the Ehic, for free or at reduced cost.

Should I replace my Ehic with a Ghic?

There’s no need to replace an existing Ehic that’s still in date with a new Ghic until it expires. They cover you for the same things and you can continue to use it in EU countries until its expiry date. But UK nationals applying for a new Ehic card will receive the Ghic instead in most cases (see ‘can I still apply for an Ehic?’ below for the exceptions).

What does an Ehic or Ghic cover and where?

If you fall ill or are injured on a temporary visit to an EU country, a valid Ehic or Ghic will entitle you to the same emergency or necessary state healthcare as its local citizens. This often means healthcare would be provided for free or at a much lower cost than they’d be without a valid card.

While the specifics of Ehic and Ghic coverage can differ by country, there are many broad similarities. You can find out what is covered by visiting the EU’s website.

Ghic and Ehic are important but travel insurance may offer protection that can't.

What isn’t covered by Ehic or Ghic?

One of the biggest changes since the UK left the EU is that the Ghic and most Ehics no longer give UK nationals access to healthcare in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland as they did before. That’s unless you were already visiting one of them before 1 January 2021, in which case your existing Ehic is valid until you leave, if it’s still in date.

It’s important to get travel insurance with health cover in place for trips to these countries, and for any overseas travel – especially during the coronavirus pandemic. And check it’s safe to travel with the latest FCDO travel advice before you go.

Remember, Ehic and Ghic do not cover every eventuality. For instance, mountain rescue and medical repatriation are not provided for. They do not cover private treatment.

Can I still use my Ehic after 1 January 2021?

Given the changes to the Ehic card after Brexit, is it still valid for trips to the Europe? That depends where abouts in Europe you’re travelling to.

If your Ehic is still in date and you’re UK national living in the UK, you can continue to use it in any EU country after 1 January 2021 until its expiry date. But you can no longer use it in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, which aren’t part of the EU – except in the circumstances below.

Can I still apply for the Ehic?

UK nationals applying for a new or replacement Ehic on the NHS website will now receive the Ghic instead. The site may still refer to the Ehic until it’s updated, but you’ll usually be applying for a Ghic now.

That said, the following can still apply for and continue to use a new Ehic in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland:

  • UK students studying in the EU (who can apply for a ‘student Ehic’)
  • UK state pensioners living in the EU (and their families)
  • EU nationals in the UK

Is a Ghic or Ehic free? If not, how much do they cost?

Both the Ehic and Ghic are free and should be applied for using the NHS website. There’s no need to pay for an Ehic or Ghic, 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.

Can I renew my Ehic?

If your existing Ehic is due to expire, or you need to replace a lost or stolen Ehic, you’ll need to apply for a new Ghic. You can do that by following the same process as when you applied the first time on the NHS website.

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

If you lose your Ehic or Ghic while you’re away, you’ll 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.

Do I need a Ghic or Ehic card?

If you’re travelling to any EU country it’s important you take a valid Ghic, or an existing Ehic that’s still in date, along with you. Anyone travelling with you should take one too. Present the card if you need to use that country’s emergency or state medical care services. It should cost you no more than it costs local citizens. In some countries that may mean it’s free.

Is a Ghic better than the Ehic?

For UK nationals there’s no real difference between the Ghic and the Ehic. They both provide the same access to healthcare in EU countries, though that cover may vary by country. Neither now provides this cover in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, which used to accept the Ehic.

What are the alternatives to Ehic and Ghic?

A common question relating to these card is “If I have an Ehic or Ghic, do I need travel insurance?".

Having good travel insurance that includes medical cover before you travel is important, as not all situations or requirements may be covered by Ehic or Ghic. Rather than being an alternative to the card, think of the insurance as a complement to it.

Your health travel insurance should cover all ofall 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. 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 several 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) 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.

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