From 4 January 2021, travellers will be able to apply for the GHIC card, which will entitle them to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during a trip to the European Union (EU). This latest development comes following the UK’s post-Brexit agreement with the EU, which includes a reciprocal health scheme ‘akin’ to the EHIC.
“The UK has reached an agreement on healthcare when visiting the EU,” a statement on the NHS EHIC application website read. “You can continue to use an EHIC or get a provisional replacement certificate (PRC) if you need treatment and do not have a card.
“If you apply for a card now, you’ll get a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) instead of an EHIC … You do not need to apply for a GHIC if you already have an EHIC. Your EHIC remains valid in the EU until it expires.”
The website also noted that neither the GHIC nor the EHIC will cover travellers in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.
The UK government has advised that travellers should still purchase travel insurance to cover them should they need emergency medical assistance while they are travelling within the EU.
If the GHIC is relatively similar to the EHIC, the impact on medical assistance for UK travellers in Europe may go more or less unchanged, with those covered by international travel insurance being directed to provider network hospitals much as they were before.
For those countries that now have no reciprocal healthcare agreements with the UK (and ITIJ wonders whether this list is likely to expand going forward), travel insurance will certainly be a necessity. Insurers should do their best to inform prospective travellers of these exclusions so that they can purchase the appropriate cover for their destination.