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The Ehic and Ghic explained

Find out how a European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) and Global Health Insurance Card (Ghic) works and how to get one

In this article
Does my Ehic still work after Brexit? What is an Ehic? What is a Ghic? How do I use an Ehic or Ghic?
I have an Ehic or Ghic – do I need travel insurance? Will I be covered by Ehic or Ghic if I have a pre-existing medical condition? Could my Ehic or Ghic be refused? What if I'm made to pay upfront?

Does my Ehic still work after Brexit?

Yes. If you have a Ehic, you continue to get free or discounted healthcare until the card's expiry date.

Once it expires, you'll need to apply for the Ghic. Like the Ehic, you can use the Ghic to get state healthcare in the EU.

Ehics and Ghics can't be used in Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.

Neither an Ehic nor a Ghic provides equivalent protection to travel insurance, which remains essential.

For more information about both, see the government's advice on its website.

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What is an Ehic?

An Ehic is a free medical card – which can be used throughout the EU – that entitles you to treatment in state hospitals at the same price as the residents of the country you're visiting. So if they get free treatment, you get free treatment.

Ehics are no longer being issued or renewed in the UK, except to a few groups:

  • A citizen of the EU (and their family), Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland who started living in the UK before 1 January 2021, and their families.
  • Some British State Pensioners who started living in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland before 1 January 2021, and their families.
  • UK students who started living and studying in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland before 1 January 2021

New Ehic and Ghic cards are free of charge, and you can apply for a new card up to six months before your current card expires. If you need to apply for a new card, go directly to the NHS website.

 

What is a Ghic?

A Ghic is a free medical card that gives you access to 'necessary healthcare' in EU countries at the same price as citizens of that country.

So if they get free treatment, you get free treatment.

Necessary healthcare includes healthcare that can't wait for you to return to the UK, such as emergency treatment, routine medical care for pre-existing conditions, routine maternity care (unless you're going to a country to give birth) and oxygen and kidney dialysis.

You can apply for a Ghic if you're resident in the UK:

Beware rip-off Ghic application sites

The Ghic, like the Ehic, is free. But we've found several websites charging you money to apply for one.

There's no advantage to applying for a Ghic or Ehic through these firms; a company can't fast-track your application.

Use the NHS website to apply for new Ghics or Ehics.

How do I use an Ehic or Ghic?

Ehics and Ghics are simple to use. All you have to do is present your Ehic or Ghic before you have treatment and you shouldn’t have any problems.

Remember to keep it on you at all times – if you're rushed to a medical centre and don’t have it with you, it can be more difficult to get treatment.

The important thing to remember is that you can only use the Ehic or Ghic for state-run medical treatment.

If you end up in a private health centre or hospital, then you'll probably have to foot the entire bill yourself, unless you're covered for this by travel insurance. In an emergency situation, most insurers will cover treatment at a private hospital if it's not possible to reach a public hospital. However, they will usually need to authorise the treatment ahead of it taking place, making it important to contact them as soon as you can if you fall ill.

What if I don't have my card with me?

You might be able to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate, a temporary Ehic or Ghic replacement, if you don’t have your card with you, but it's much easier to present your Ehic or Ghic on arrival.

If you need a Provisional Replacement Certificate, see the NHS guide for guidance on what to do.

I have an Ehic or Ghic – do I need travel insurance?

Yes. Many travellers assume that having an Ehic or Ghic means that they don't need travel insurance, but this couldn't be further from the truth.

While, somewhat confusingly, Ehic and Ghic have insurance in their names, both only help you meet the cost of state-provided medical treatment.

So they won't pay costs for:

  • Any medical treatment at a private hospital or clinic
  • Repatriation to the UK
  • Rescue, for example from a ski accident, or if you fall ill on a cruise ship
  • Cancelling or cutting short your holiday
  • Your luggage going missing or being stolen
  • State-provided healthcare in non-EU countries such as the US and Australia (although the government has suggested the Ghic scheme may be expanded).

We therefore strongly advise getting travel insurance for foreign trips of any length.

Find out more: Best and worst travel insurance

Will I be covered by Ehic or Ghic if I have a pre-existing medical condition?

Both the Ehic and Ghic cover treatment of a chronic or pre-existing condition if the symptoms flare up during your holiday and a visit to a healthcare professional becomes necessary. 

It also covers routine medical care for people with pre-existing conditions that need monitoring.

However, the Ehic doesn't provide cover if you're going abroad specifically to have treatment. Nor does it guarantee the kind of specialist treatment you might receive at home.

Travellers with pre-existing medical conditions might find travel insurance difficult or very expensive to obtain.

The government's Moneyhelper website includes a directory of specialist insurers that may be able to help.

Could my Ehic or Ghic be refused?

If you're in a country that participates in the Ehic or Ghic scheme, then you should be entitled to state medical care if it's necessary while you're travelling.

If your card is refused in a state-run clinic, try to get proof that you presented it at the time, as this could be key to getting the excess waived by your insurer. And, if for some reason you think you’ve been incorrectly charged, you might still be entitled to reimbursement from the NHS.

What if I'm made to pay upfront?

Even if the state-provided care is free, you might still have to pay upfront and claim the money back once you return home.

In France, for example, you might have to pay upfront for certain services, although for others, a bill may be sent to your home address.

For advice on getting refunded by the NHS, contact the Overseas Healthcare Service on 0191 218 1999.

Keep all receipts in case you need to make a claim from your travel insurance provider

Get a travel insurance quote with Confused.com

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