If you haven’t traveled in a while, get ready, because a lot has changed. From EHIC cards to travel insurance, here’s what you need to know.
After Brexit, a number of advantages that we took for granted within the framework of the European Union disappeared. For the average tourist, most of these changes will be minor grunts, but you might have wondered if your European Health Insurance Card or EHIC card is still valid.
Saving the impact of Brexit for a heated pub debate, let’s look at the things you’ll need to consider if you’re heading to Europe this summer. From EHIC cards to GHIC cards to travel insurance, I explain how it all works.
Learn more: The best travel insurers
Are EHIC cards still valid?
You may still have an EHIC card. The EHIC has enabled UK travelers to access limited cover for health issues when visiting the EU. It also gave access to limited health coverage in a few other countries such as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.
I have never gone on holiday without my EHIC card. As well as being free (always a good thing), the card entitles you to a range of hospital treatments in the EU at most non-private facilities. Exactly what the card covered for you varied from country to country, although as a (very) general rule you were entitled to some free or reduced-cost public health care.
Often an EHIC card meant that minor treatments could sometimes take place without the need to make an insurance claim. You could easily prove that you were entitled to treatment if you had your card with you.
Now that we have left the EU, the EHIC card will eventually cease to exist. Check the expiry date on the card – yours will be valid until that date. It’s all pretty complicated, but if you renew your EHIC before the end of 2020, the UK government has brokered a deal where the card would still be valid. However, if you are traveling to Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, this is not the case.
If you have an E111 card, you need to empty your drawers more! It is a predecessor of the CEAM and is long gone.
Learn more: UK Passport Renewal Time & Costs
What if my EHIC card has expired?
If your EHIC has passed its expiry date, you can take out its replacement, the Carte Globale d’Assurance Maladie.
It works in the same way as the EHIC – but there are a number of variations depending on the country you are visiting. Find out more on the government website.
Don’t be fooled by that “overall” in the title, though. There isn’t much information about non-EU countries in government guidelines and you’d have to be crazy to go somewhere like America without a full insurance policy, even if the US United had to join the program.
How to apply for GHIC?
A GHIC card is free and relatively easy to apply for. The current delivery time is around 20 days, so not quite the ten weeks that the Passport Office advises its customers.
However, you can apply for GHIC if your old card is less than six months old – and it’s worth doing as soon as possible; there is a disclaimer on the website that delays may occur due to “exceptional demand”.
You can apply for free on the NHS website – you’ll need your National Insurance number to hand.
Each family member must have their own card, although you must be over 16 to apply personally. You can spawn apps for young children as dependents when sorting your own GHIC, though you get a card for each person (so take them all).
Your GHIC will last for five years, so stick a journal reminder for a few months before the renewal date on the card.
Learn more: What are my flight reimbursement rights?
My GHIC card has not arrived
Many readers have contacted me to tell me that their new GHIC did not arrive on time and that they are about to go on vacation.
If your EHIC is still valid and the country you are going to accepts it, you should be fine. But again – and I can’t stress this enough – you still need to get travel insurance, because even the best EHIC/GHIC coverage isn’t enough to pay for many medical emergencies or treatments.
Beware of scammers
Unfortunately, where there is a chance to make a quick buck, there are scammers. Some websites are outright fake, designed only to capture your contact details. However, others are “legit” companies – which only means that they do not violate any specific Laws – which masquerades as the official GHIC application processing site. And instead of being complete scams, they charge a fee – a fee for something that’s supposed to be free.
If you look at the wording of these sites, they actually charge you for “application proofreading” or “reminder of your renewal date”. If you’re asked to enter bank details, you know you’re on the wrong site.
Fake websites also work in areas such as passport or driver’s license applications and for things like US visas.
I’m going to take my platform here one more time and wonder why the hell this is allowed to happen. Search engines often allow these businesses to climb online rankings or, in the past, have allowed them to pay for advertisements that make them look like the real deal. These companies are immoral and manipulative. But they are enabled by big tech companies that, despite numerous warnings, have not suppressed them. It is time they were forced to do so. But for now, beware.
EHIC and GHIC cards v travel insurance
It is important to note that EHIC and GHIC cards were never intended to replace a travel insurance policy, which is invaluable if you are going on holiday as the costs of many treatments can be astronomical.
Your health insurance card only offers limited protection – as the NHS website points out: “It may not cover all health costs and never covers repatriation costs”. So think about what you might be looking at if you broke your leg on a ski slope. It’s not just medical costs that you may need to consider, but also those related to transportation back home.
Travel insurance has undergone considerable upheaval in recent years. The industry had to adapt to the massive requests for vacations that could not be taken due to the pandemic.
Standard travel policies may have changed significantly since your last purchase. You should therefore familiarize yourself with the main facts and what you are paying for.
Don’t forget to take the documents with you when you travel – and keep the emergency request number and your police number on your phone or email so you can find them quickly if you need them. I will also photograph the details so that you have them at your fingertips.
If you buy a policy, make sure it starts at the time of purchase. A lot can go wrong as the holidays approach, so if you can’t travel for whatever reason, you’ll need to at least have a sporting chance of getting your money back through a claim.
Although some insurance is better than no insurance, beware of policies purchased at the airport. These tend to have significant limitations compared to full-featured ones.