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EHICs, GHICs and other stories

Since our blog post last November about UK issued EHICs, things have moved on a bit. Here we bring you up to date on current information and outline how you are covered from 1 January 2021 for health care that becomes medically necessary during a stay in another EU country or in the UK.

What is the new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)?

Under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement that came into effect on 1 January, reciprocal health care arrangements between the EU and UK continue. For those who live in the UK, the current EHIC card has been replaced by a new GHIC card.

People living in the UK will be able to use their existing EHICs until they expire, at which point they will apply for the new GHIC. The GHIC offers almost the same cover as the previous EHIC, but with one difference: unlike the EHIC it can’t be used in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.

If you are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, though, you will continue to be eligible for an EHIC card, either issued by your host country, by the UK or by another EU country, depending on which is your competent state (see more about this in our explainer here). Unlike the GHIC, this card can be used in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland.

You are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement and you have a UK-issued EHIC

This applies to you if you were already resident in your host country before 1 January 2021 and you hold an S1 form from the UK. The S1 form was previously known as either the E121, E106 or E109, depending on the circumstances in which it was issued. Holding an S1 form means that the UK is your competent state; it is responsible for paying your health care costs and therefore for issuing your EHIC card. Your dependents can also be covered and can receive EHIC cards in their own name.

  • Contrary to earlier advice given by the UK government, your current UK-issued EHIC will now remain valid until its expiry date and you can continue to use it until then for travel to other EU countries.
  • When your current EHIC card expires, because you are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement you should apply for a new UK issued EHIC, notfor a GHIC. The new EHIC card will carry the notation ‘CRA’ (Citizens’ Rights Agreement) to identify you as a beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement.
  • If you intend to travel to Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland you should apply for a replacement EHIC card even if your current card has not expired, as your current EHIC is not valid in these 4 countries. You can, however, use your UK passport to receive medically necessary treatment in Norway.
  • Apply for your new EHIC card here.
  • If you hold a UK-issued S1 form, you can access NHS services without charge when visiting the UK. You should take your S1 with you to ensure you can do this.
  • If you find yourself in need of emergency or medically necessary treatment whilst visiting another country within the EU, and you don’t have a GHIC or EHIC, you can obtain a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) which will provide the same coverage for healthcare as an EHIC. The PRC can only be requested at the point of requiring care; it is not possible to request a PRC in advance of a trip. Someone else can apply for a PRC on your behalf if you’re unable to so do. If you need to obtain a PRC you should contact NHSBSA on +44 (0)191 218 1999.

You are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement and you have an EU-issued EHIC

This applies to you if you were already resident in your host country before 1 January 2021 and you have an EHIC – a European Health Card – issued by the health authorities in your host country. This will be the case if you are working in your host country, or you receive a pension from your host country, or (in some countries) if you have joined the state health care system on a voluntary or contribution-based basis.

  • Your EU-issued EHIC will continue to be valid if you travel to the UK, as well as in other EU states, as it is now. Nothing will change for you and you do not need to take any specific action.

Your spouse or other close family member is not covered by the Withdrawal Agreement but holds or is eligible to hold an EU-issued EHIC

This applies if, for example, you live with a spouse or partner who is a national of your host country, or you have a dual national child who was born in your host country and is therefore not covered by the Withdrawal Agreement in his/her own right because s/he has never exercised free movement rights.

  • Because EU-issued EHICs are valid for use in the UK after 1 January 2021, under the Trade and Cooperation Agreement, your spouse or close family member will be able to use his/her EU-issued EHIC if they travel to the UK, whether they are accompanied by you or not. They do not need to take any special action.

What does the EHIC cover?

A reminder that the EHIC only covers the cost of treatment which becomes medically necessary during your stay outside your host country. This includes:

  • emergency treatment and visits to A&E;
  • treatment for a long-term or pre-existing medical condition;
  • routine medical care for pre-existing conditions that need monitoring;
  • routine maternity care, as long as you’re not going abroad to give birth;
  • oxygen and kidney dialysis.

Some treatments need to be pre-arranged with the relevant healthcare provider in the country you are visiting, for example kidney dialysis or chemotherapy.

You will be reimbursed on the same basis as a national of the country you’re visiting. This means that in some countries you may need to pay a proportion of the cost of the health care you receive.

For more information, see the UK Government’s page.

Published: 26 January 2021