Research by Direct Line Travel Insurance has found that nearly two thirds of UK citizens (32 million people) do not have, or are unsure if they have, a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). This represents an increase of more than seven million people compared with the previous year.
The EHIC is a card which enables anyone covered by a statutory social security scheme in the European Economic Area (EEA) to receive emergency medical treatment and necessary medical care in another member state for free or at reduced cost if treatment becomes necessary. The GHIC was introduced as a replacement for the EHIC by the UK government following the country’s departure from the European Union (EU) in 2020.
Direct Line say the reason for low uptake of health insurance cards may be due to nearly a third (29 per cent) of people not being aware that the GHIC has replaced the EHIC for UK travellers.
Many people do not know health insurance cards are for
Another cause of low uptake may be widespread uncertainty about what the GHIC and EHIC cover and cost. Three quarters (76 per cent) of those surveyed said that they do not understand what health insurance cards cover when they are abroad, with some respondents believing that it covers repatriation costs (seven-per-cent), mountain rescue (three-per-cent) and cosmetic procedures (one-per-cent).
Some 9.4 million people (18 per cent) of respondents also mistakenly believe they must pay for a GHIC to replace the EHIC, with the average estimated cost of £9.30. In reality, GHIC cards are provided for free.
Additionally, only nine-per-cent of adults surveyed said that they had a GHIC or have applied to one, with only 17 per cent planning to do so. Over 19 million UK citizens (36 per cent) are set to see their EHIC cards expire over the next four years if not replaced by a GHIC card.
Additional travel insurance should still be purchased even with a GHIC card
Direct Line also added that while a valid EHIC or GHIC card was important, it is still ‘vital’ that travellers purchase additional travel insurance coverage as well. It notes that 15 million UK citizens have travelled to Europe without travel insurance in the past, leaving them vulnerable to expensive medical care and costly repatriations which are not fully covered by insurance cards. It also warned that the average cost of medical insurance claims stands at almost £1,500.
Tom Bishop, Head of Direct Line Travel Insurance said: “This research highlights that millions of people are travelling to Europe without any form of insurance or cover, putting them at risk of unexpected and unpleasant bills if anything unplanned happens.
“We hope this year could finally see us return to holidaying abroad without the burden of restrictions, but it’s worrying to see the GHIC gap is growing so we urge anyone travelling overseas to make sure they, and their family, have all got one before their trip,” he added.