The Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) Explained
The UK is no longer part of the EU, leaving many people with one lingering question: what happens now when we travel to Europe?
While there are a lot of new laws and regulations that will impact this, one of the biggest changes about travelling to Europe is that Brits can no longer apply for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Thankfully, the UK government has struck a deal with the EU to create a like-for-like alternative: the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). And we’re here to explain everything you need to know about it – from who’s eligible to apply, to whether you actually need one.
Two Global Health Insurance Cards tucked into British passports
What’s on this page?
- 01 | What is the Global Health Insurance Card?
- 02 | Who does the Global Health Insurance Card apply to?
- 03 | What does the GHIC cover?
- 04 | What does the GHIC not cover?
What is the Global Health Insurance Card?
Let’s start with the basics. Before Brexit, all UK citizens were able to apply for an EHIC – a medical card that can be used throughout the EU to cover healthcare costs. Unfortunately, since the UK is no longer part of the EU, this card is no longer available.
As an alternative, Britain’s government has made a new agreement with the EU. Any UK residents travelling to Europe can still receive emergency and ‘medically necessary’ healthcare (i.e. you cannot afford to wait until you come back to the UK to get medical help) by using a Global Health Insurance Card.
It’s pretty much exactly the same as your old EHIC, but with a slightly different name.
Since 2004, the UK has issued roughly 27 million EHICs. If yours is still valid, you’ll still be able to use it until it runs out of date, but then you’ll have to apply for a GHIC.
Who does the Global Health Insurance Card apply to?
Great news – all UK residents are eligible to apply for a GHIC, as long as you do one of the following:
- Live in the UK
- Normally live in the UK, but are studying in the EU
- Live in the EU, and have been issued with a UK S1 or A1 document
- Are an eligible family member or dependant of one of the above
Bear in mind that each family member should have their own GHIC. If someone in your family is unable to apply for their own card, you should be able to apply on their behalf.
In a bid to be more inclusive, the government has also stated that residents in Northern Ireland will soon have the option to choose whether their GHIC card has a union flag or one with a plain background – although it’s unknown when this will come into play.
Any UK nationals living, working, or studying in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland who cannot get a GHIC might also be able to apply for a new EHIC.
What does the GHIC cover?
Anyone with a GHIC can receive the same treatment at public hospitals and GPs that locals are entitled to. So, if citizens of the country you're visiting have access to free healthcare, you will too!
The services you’ll be able to use with a GHIC will vary depending on which country you’re in, but can include:
- Emergency treatment and visits to A&E
- Treatment for pre-existing medical conditions
- Routine maternity care, as long as you're not going abroad specifically to give birth
- Oxygen and kidney dialysis
What does the GHIC not cover?
Despite covering you for any medical issues that may happen on your trip abroad, the GHIC isn’t a replacement for travel insurance. For example, the card won’t cover holiday cancellation, rescue services, or repatriation (having to go back to your home country).
Plus, if you’d rather be seen at a private facility, this will have to come out of your own pocket, as the GHIC only applies to state healthcare.
And remember, not all public healthcare is free in the EU either – depending on where you are, you may have to pay for services that you’d otherwise get for free on the NHS.
If you have travel insurance, however, you should be able to reduce these costs, or avoid them altogether.
Where can the card be used?
Despite being called a Global Health Insurance Card, the GHIC actually only works in the 27 EU countries.
Previously, the EHIC was also valid in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, but the GHIC isn’t accepted in these countries yet.
The NHS website suggests that other countries might accept it in the future, so keep an eye out.
Make sure you have a stress-free healthcare experience abroad with the help of an GHIC
How much does it cost?
Most things in life come at a price – thankfully, the GHIC doesn’t, as it’s free for all Brits. All you have to do is go to the official GHIC website and fill out an application.
Plus, if you lose your card or it gets stolen, you can apply for another with no fees attached.
The NHS website is keen to highlight that there are some websites which are asking for a processing fee to submit an application, but these are in no way affiliated with the official GHIC service.
In fact, when we Googled ‘GHIC application’, we found four results on the first page requesting a processing fee of up to £35.
The official application is free and simple to use, so it’s best to ignore these sites and stick to the NHS.
Should you get a Global Health Insurance Card?
Well, if you like the idea of free or reduced healthcare costs whilst visiting Europe, the answer is a resounding yes!
No one goes on holiday thinking they’ll end up in hospital, but accidents happen – which is why having a GHIC can come in handy. In some countries, certain illnesses or broken bones could land you with a pretty hefty bill, so why not avoid this stress by applying for free?
If you’re travelling to a country for a long period of time, or are moving out there permanently, private health insurance might be a better option for you – but it’s always good to have a GHIC to fall back on.
How to apply
To apply for a GHIC, all you need to do is create an account on the official NHS website, log in, and fill out the GHIC application form for either yourself, your partner, or any dependents you have. And, if you need a replacement card, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember to have the following information on hand when applying for a new GHIC:
- Your full name
- Your address
- Your date of birth
- Your National Insurance or NHS number (if you’re in England or Wales)
- Your CHI number (if you’re in Scotland)
- Your Health and Care number (if you’re in Northern Ireland)
Your card should arrive in roughly 10 days, so make sure you apply for it at least two weeks before your trip abroad.