Where can you use the GHIC?
The UK Government launched its new Global Health Insurance Card in January, which gives Brits access to vital healthcare while abroad.
The GHIC replaces the old European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) but is more limited in terms of precisely where tourists can use it.
For now, it only covers EU nations, as opposed to the EHIC (before Brexit), which covered all nations within the ‘European Economic Area’, which included non-EU states like Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.
Earlier this year, the Government said it is working on securing “new, comprehensive agreements on social security coordination, including reciprocal healthcare” with the nations previously covered by the old EHIC.
We have launched a new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) 🇬🇧— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) January 12, 2021
This ensures UK residents can continue to access emergency care in the EU.
EHIC and GHIC cards offer equivalent protection and you only need to apply for a GHIC when your EHIC expires.
▶️ https://t.co/Os2rO7gjYx pic.twitter.com/omdDxTR2K8
What does a GHIC cover you for?
The GHIC offers the same protection to tourists as the EHIC before it.
UK nationals can benefit from “necessary healthcare” from state services when visiting an EU nation. This means issues where you cannot reasonably wait until returning to the UK before seeing a doctor, and covers things like:
Emergency treatment and trips to A&E
Treatment for long-term or pre-existing conditions
Routine medical care for pre-existing conditions that require monitoring
Routine maternity care, as long as you’re not going to give birth abroad
Oxygen and kidney dialysis
You’ll need to establish that you are not booked in with a private healthcare provider, as these are not covered by the GHIC, while it’s worth remembering that not all state healthcare is free in the EU. As a result you may still have to pay towards services that you might ordinarily get for free in the UK.
For example, in Spain dental treatment is generally not available under the state system so you may well have to stump up.
How to use the GHIC
In practice, you should be able to claim your free or reduced cost treatment by simply showing your card to the doctor, dentist or consultant carrying out your treatment.
But as your GHIC cover only applies in state-run hospitals and clinics, (not private ones), be sure it is the state version you’re going to, and if you ask your tour rep for advice on which doctor or dentist to use, make sure they know you’re going to be getting any treatment using your GHIC.
GHIC or travel policy?
First off, it’s worth emphasising that a GHIC ‒ like the EHIC before it ‒ is not a replacement for travel insurance. If you’re heading off somewhere outside the UK, then you really do need to have a proper travel policy in place.
But which is best to use and when?
There’s no hard and fast rules on this, but with the old EHIC, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) recommended that it was best kept for relatively routine treatment, such as if you need antibiotics, develop toothache or have a scrape that becomes infected.
Even if you don’t need to make a claim on your travel insurance for a minor incident like this, it’s best to let your insurer know that you’ve had medical treatment abroad.
If you’re unlucky enough to need more serious or emergency medical treatment then the ABI recommends using your travel insurance as policies provide not only medical cover, but will often cover other subsequent costs.
This can be anything from rearranging your flight home to having a family member stay on with you and even taxis and transport to the hospital for further appointments.
With some travel policies, you’ll also be able to claim back things like the cost of phone calls, which can quickly add up and would naturally be excluded if you use your GHIC.
Do I need my GHIC on me to claim?
It’s certainly easier if you do have your GHIC with you, but it’s not essential.
You can instead get a provisional replacement certificate (PRC) to prove your entitlement to the healthcare, by calling Overseas Healthcare Services at the NHS Business Services Authority on +44 (0)191 218 1999, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.
When calling, you will need to provide your National Insurance number, your name, address, date of birth, the name of the treatment facility and the email address for the specific department of the medical organisation providing your treatment.
Applying for a GHIC
Make sure you apply for a free card on the official GHIC website.
These medical cards have previously been a great moneymaker for rip-off merchants, who charge fees of around £9.99 a time to supply them, which is a complete con!
As the NHS application process is very simple, there's no need to pay for 'assistance' of any kind.
Is my old EHIC still valid?
It’s important to bear in mind that existing EHIC cards are still valid so long as they are still within date, and so can be used if you’re heading into the EU.
You will only need to apply for a GHIC once the EHIC has expired.