Brexit : Is the European Health Insurance Card still valid ?

Does Brexit mean the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is still valid ?

When the U.K. was a member of the European Union (EU), British nationals and residents could access free healthcare or reduce costs by using the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which formalized reciprocal healthcare funding arrangements across the EU. Although Brexit has changed the way this will work in the future, under the deal the U.K. and EU announced in December 2020, existing EHICs remain valid until their expiry dates. This means that if you have an EHIC issued before the end of the U.K. and EU’s transition arrangements on 1 January 2021, you will still be able to use your EHIC to access healthcare within EU states. If you already have an EHIC you should check its expiry date to ensure you are covered.


However, most U.K.-issued EHICs (those not issued to nationals of these countries or those who lived and received pensions within the EU before 2021) are not valid in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. Travelers visiting these countries may not have access to free emergency medical treatment and could be charged for healthcare if they do not get travel and medical insurance. However, a U.K. passport can be used to get medically necessary healthcare in Norway.


If you are solely a U.K. citizen you can no longer apply for an EHIC from January 2021 and should apply for the new Global Health Insurance Card, which replicates its benefits.


RELATED ARTICLE : What are the effects of Brexit on those traveling to the Schengen Area from the U.K. ?


What does a valid EHIC entitle me to?

An EHIC entitles you to receive “necessary healthcare” if you’re in an EU country by presenting it when you require treatment. Necessary healthcare means your treatment is medically necessary and cannot be delayed until you return to the U.K. This includes Accident & Emergency care, treatment for long-term pre-existing conditions, routine maternity care (but you cannot travel to the EU with the intention of giving birth) or kidney and oxygen dialysis, as well as chemotherapy. Some of these treatments may have to be pre-booked in advance, however, and your EHIC will not cover treatment from a private provider. It may also not cover every treatment you receive for free in the U.K. You will also be covered for treatment for illnesses or injuries endured while in transit to an EU state.


However, each EU state’s healthcare systems are slightly different as to what is covered by the state. In some countries, you may also have to make a contribution towards the cost of state treatment, known as a co-payment. In certain countries, you may also be expected to pay for the cost of certain care upfront and then claim a refund. You should therefore keep any documentation of your care and payments. You will not be charged more than an ordinary citizen of the EU state you are visiting.


Who can still apply for an EHIC?

Some people living in Great Britain and Ireland may be able to apply for a new U.K.-issued EHIC if stipulated in the Withdrawal Agreement. These EHICs also cover you for necessary healthcare from state services in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland.


You can apply for a new U.K. EHIC if you're an EU, Swiss, Norwegian, Icelandic, or Liechtenstein citizen, and you've been living in the U.K. since before 1 January 2021; a U.K. pensioner, or receiving some other exportable benefits; a frontier worker (someone who works in one country and lives in another) and you've been one since before 1 January 2021, for as long as you continue to be a frontier worker in your host state; a worker posted to work in another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland by your U.K. employer, and you've been there since before 1 January 2021; an eligible family member or dependant of one of the above categories, or a British student studying in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, and you've been there since before 1 January 2021. Dual nationals are also eligible if you acquired British citizenship through naturalization, you were a citizen of an EU country, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein before also becoming a British citizen, and/or you have retained your nationality of one of those countries. Irish citizens who were born in the U.K., including people of Northern Ireland who are Irish citizens, will not usually be eligible for a new U.K.-issued EHIC and should apply for a GHIC.


More information on how to apply is available, here : services.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/cra/start


What happens if I lose my EHIC?

If you lose or leave your GHIC behind and need treatment you can get a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) that proves your entitlement. To apply for a PRC you need to call Overseas Healthcare Services at the NHS Services Authority on +44 191 218 1999 and provide your name, National Insurance number, address, date of birth, and details of where you are receiving treatment. Another person can apply on your behalf if you are unable to.


How can AXA help?

AXA offers travel and medical insurance plans that provide cover for medical costs up to €30,000 or more, and offer benefits including guarantees in the event of hospitalization: assistance for solo travelers, an extension of your stay, daily compensation, and much more.


Related articles on Schengen insurance


Frequently asked questions about the EHIC after Brexit

Can I travel to the EU using an EHIC without obtaining travel and medical insurance?

Yes. As there is a visa-free travel arrangement - you can - but it is not recommended as you will not be covered for all health problems or other mishaps.

If I have an EHIC - but my family do not - can I gain treatment?

Each family member will need either an EHIC or GHIC card to obtain free or discounted treatment - those family members who do not have one should apply for one - if eligible -and if not - should apply for a GHIC.

Are all treatments abroad free with an EHIC?

Although many basic and emergency treatments will be free - other treatments will not be and some countries will require you to make co-payments to contribute to the cost of care.