Understand the EHIC and GHIC 

August 23, 2022

The EHIC

An EHIC is a medical card issued by the UK government to all its citizens that can be used anywhere within the EU for medical treatment. A cardholder can visit any state hospital in the EU country they visit and will pay the same as the citizens of that country or even get free treatment (if available). 

After Brexit EHIC are not being issued with a few exceptions like: 

Any citizen and their family of the EU, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Iceland living in the UK before January 1, 2021.  

Those British citizens and their families staying in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland before January 01. 2021. 

UK students that are studying and living in the EU, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Iceland before January 01, 2021.  

Both EHIC & GHIC are free and can be applied for 6 months before the expiration date. 

The GHIC

The GHIC is a medical card that is available free and can be used for necessary healthcare purposes within the EU either free or at the same cost as that country’s citizens. 

The term necessary healthcare implies any kind of treatment that cannot be delayed until the cardholder’s return to the UK. E.g., treatment for pre-existing medical issues, regular maternity care (excluding visiting the country to give birth), kidney dialysis, emergency treatment etc. 

Any citizen of the UK can register for the GHIC online. Non-UK citizens and UK students studying within the EU will have to fill out a form for the GHIC.  

Is an EHIC  valid after Brexit? 

It will remain valid to use until the expiration date of the card. When close to expiration or after, the individual will need to apply for a GHIC to get state healthcare facilities within the EU. At present, neither an EHIC/ GHIC can be used in Liechtenstein, Norway or Iceland.   

However, both cards do not offer the same level of protection as travel insurance which is critical to have when travelling anywhere outside of the UK.  

Using the EHIC/GHIC

Using either of the medical cards is easy as all it requires is to carry and present the card when going in for treatment at any state hospital in the EU. It is recommended to always carry it on your person because in case of a sudden emergency not being able to furnish it can pose an issue with getting treated. The most important thing to bear in mind is that both the EHIC and GHIC can only be used at state healthcare facilities. 

In the case of an emergency, an EHIC/GHIC cardholder is admitted to a private hospital or healthcare institute they will need to pay the complete bill unless already covered by travel insurance. In case of an emergency, if there is no state hospital nearby most insurers will cover the treatment. But they must be informed in advance of starting the treatment, making it imperative to get in touch with them for authorisation asap.  

Lost or misplaced the card 

While carrying the card at all times is essential for use in case of a medical emergency, those that have lost or misplaced their card need not despair. They can apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate that serves as a temporary medical card substitute if they do not have the actual card. 

To learn more about obtaining a Provisional Replacement Certificate, visit the NHS website for information on the steps to be taken. 

Since I already have an EHIC/GHIC is travel insurance needed? 

There seems to be a general misconception that owning an EHIC/GHIC card precludes the need for travel insurance. This is just not true! 

Both EHIC/GHIC do have the term insurance but that is conditional as it only applies to gaining access to state healthcare facilities within the EU.

An EHIC/GHIC card will not cover the following expenses: 

  • Getting treatment at a private healthcare facility 
  • Getting ill on a cruise liner or needing rescue from an accident site
  • Having to cut short or cancel a holiday 
  • Stolen or misplaced luggage 
  • Need to be repatriated by medical air ambulance to the UK
  • Getting state healthcare medical treatment in countries outside the EU like Australia or the US (at the moment) 
  • Therefore, it is critical to opt for travel insurance whenever overseas on a trip to any foreign country