Unscrupulous copycat websites are already charging to ‘help’ people apply for the free Global Health Insurance Card (Ghic).
The Ghic is intended to be the replacement for the old European Health Insurance Card (Ehic). Like Ehic, it should allow British people access to free or reduced cost healthcare in most European countries when travelling and possibly elsewhere as well.
It’s easy to claim it for free from the NHS. Yet, when we Googled ‘Ghic application’, three of the top six results were companies attempting to charge administration fees of around £30 to provide it.
Google bans rip-off adverts for official documents
The first two listings when we checked were both unofficial, rip-off websites. One company – e111ehic.co.uk – even paid Google to allow it to appear at the top of the search page, above the government website.
When we pointed this out to Google it removed the advertisement and told us:
‘We have strict ads policies that govern the types of ads and advertisers we allow on our platforms. Under our policy we only allow Governments or their delegated providers to advertise for official documents or services. When ads breach our policies we take action to remove them.’
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Unofficial Ghic websites still trying to cash-in
However, there’s still nothing to stop these kind of websites appearing on Google without advertising. Another company, Application Advice Service UK, has set up two websites ghic.co.uk and ghiccard.co.uk, which both appeared in the first few results.
None of the websites are breaking the law as they state that it is possible to get the card for free from the NHS. But e111ehic.co.uk tries to suggest that applying from the NHS may be a ‘hassle’. While the official website has received huge numbers of inquiries, there’s nothing to suggest that paying a third party will help you get your card more quickly.
The rip-off website charges £29.98 to provide the card, but admits that while free cards from the NHS generally arrive within seven days, its service takes 10 to 14 days.
It also suggests that it will check the application to identify any errors, but as it misspells the word ‘identify’ as ‘indentify’ this may not be reassuring for the user.
Do you need to apply for the Ghic?
Your Ehic remains valid until its expiry date, so most people do not yet need to apply for the Ghic. When the time comes, you can apply here.
It’s important to be aware that the Ehic and the Ghic do not now provide cover in some non-EU countries that used to provide reciprocal healthcare to British travellers. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland aren’t included in the EU deal. It’s also not a substitute for a good travel insurance policy.
Do you need to pay to apply for the Ghic?
No. The websites charging for help with an application make various claims to justify their £30 charge, such as checking the form is filled out correctly or fast tracking your application. The forms are simple to fill out and no company can fast track your application.