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Your EHIC travel insurance card has been reprieved and will still be valid tomorrow

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Will your EHIC card still be valid in 2021? Yes, it will.

One concern about the final Brexit agreement was that the free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) would be abolished. Luckily, they have been – just about – reprieved, albeit the name will change.

EHIC card will continue in 2021

What is an EHIC?

The European Health Insurance Card was free. It allows UK residents to obtain the same treatment at a European hospital or medical practice that a local resident would receive.

The cards cover the EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Do you need to replace your existing EHIC?

No. The good news is that your existing EHIC card will continue to be valid in EU countries, and only EU countries, until the expiry date printed on the card.

This means that the four non-EU countries listed above are no longer covered by your EHIC.

What will replace your EHIC?

The UK Government has proposed a new product called the Global Health Insurance Card, or GHIC.

The GHIC will have the same coverage as your EHIC card, so there is no need to apply for a replacement. It will still not cover you in Switzerland etc.

The NHS website still allows you to apply for an EHIC although you will receive one of the new cards.

As with an EHIC, the GHIC is not a replacement for full travel insurance although you may feel that it is enough. Because you are only covered to the same level as a citizen of the country you are visiting, you may face charges for some services which would be free if you were in the UK.

You can find out more, including what you should do if you are a UK resident in Europe or a European resident in the UK, on the NHS site here.

Comments (226)

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  • Richard says:

    Your piece has skated over the question of what the GHIC will actually cover. On the face of it, it seems that the Agreement envisages that EHIC simply continues but just with a new name and that, crucially, the UK cannot subsequently opt of it. So that’s indeed good news. But the scope of costs reimbursed could change.
    In principle EHIC actually operates on the basis that national health services of each resident paid the bills of those residents as incurred, ie. in effect offered residents EU-wide health coverage. The EHIC card is therefore really just an identity card and the details are for the non-UK health insititution to invoice the DWP in Newcastle. The scope of what’s covered varies, however. Because the NHS was set up as a Health Service rather than a administration system, it is not so good at getting payment for treatment of non residents (the rules on who is entitled to NHS treatment are in any case quite involved). So it probably doesn’t make sufficient claims back. So it’s not impossible that it might try and restrict coverage and/or require copayments to provide treatment to non-residents.

    • Dev says:

      I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that the NHS is one of hardest hit for Health Tourism (including from the EU) as it is pretty crap at chasing money for non-UK residents who reside elsewhere … either the individual or the health set is that has responsibility for the individual.

      • J says:

        We’ve experienced that. “Here’s my EHIC”, “Oh, we don’t need that, healthcare is free here”.

      • Bazza says:

        No one in the NHS dares to ask anyone for any sort of ID. And it’s so understaffed there would never be anyone to check anything anyway

        • Anna says:

          A couple of years ago I had to have several hospital visits for tests and treatments over a 3 month period. Every time I signed in for an appointment I was asked if I qualified for free treatment but not once was I asked to provide proof.

          • Charlieface says:

            Meanwhile if you tick the wrong box on a prescription form they come chasing even though you’re exempt anyway

        • TT says:

          And heaven forbid that it should ever be anything less than free at the point of care!

      • Michael Jennings says:

        An American friend had a recurrence of an existing condition when she was visiting me in the UK. She spent a couple of days in a British NHS hospital. She went home, and the hospital sent her a bill. She forwarded to her American insurance company. The American insurance company said that they needed an itemised bill. She requested the itemised bill from the British hospital. She never heard from them again.

        Chasing up payment does not appear to be very efficient, even when people are willing to pay.

      • C says:

        Not my experience at all – a few years back my father in law had a heart attack while visiting the UK from abroad, and they wouldn’t provide any NHS treatment until they had a signed personal payment guarantee (this from a foreign visitor who just had a heart attack!). They were happy to send him to the private patient wing of the same hospital to be treated by the same doctors at higher cost, even though this would have invalidated his travel insurance.

        • John says:

          Emergency treatment is free for everybody including tourists.

          • C says:

            We were told that ‘free’ treatment only amounted to being processed in A&E. Once the A&E doctor determined that the appropriate course of treatment (by NICE protocols) was inpatient observation and analysis, everything subsequent became chargeable. However, he also could not be discharged from the hospital as it was against NICE guidelines (and there was no doubt he needed medical attention).

  • Bill says:

    My dream if retiring to Spain officially ends tonight. From what I’ve read I will require 2,500 euro income per month during retirement. Unlikely.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      OK for all those retirees coming to the end of their work life right now on final salary pensions …

      We’ve been fucked by the oldies once again. You never know if you’ve got enough years before you retire we might re join.

      • KellyK says:

        Spot on

      • BlueThroughCrimp says:

        No you’ve not. If the young went out and voted they could have stayed in.
        Easy to blame old folk who go and vote, while taking no responsibility for their own inactions.

        • J says:

          Maybe, just maybe, if you want younger working age people to vote, elections shouldn’t take place on a Thursday.

          • BlueThroughCrimp says:

            Postal votes happen for some days before.
            And it’s not as if it wasn’t a surprise that it was such an important referendum, and their very future was at stake.
            But no. Blaming old folk is much easier than taking responsibility.

    • Anna says:

      People are deliberately seeing obstacles. There’s nothing to stop you going to Spain for several months of the year at a time. Are you saying you intended to go to Spain and never actually leave again?

      • KellyK says:

        You don’t think Brexit has created obstacles for people wanting to retire to EU countries ! What planet do you live on?

      • A says:

        Can definitely see obstacles now we have left the EU. Can’t say I can see the benefits. Please can you help and let me know what they are?

    • Sandgrounder says:

      Things are a little bit different now, you will now need a visa or a residence permit to spend more than 90 days from any 180 in the Shengen area. You can be banned from re-admission if you break this rule. You certainly can get a study visa, this is one option. But you can’t just do a border run and reset the clock.

      • Anna says:

        If you’re intending to settle permanently it’s still quite straightforward to apply for a residence permit. Certainly if you really want to go and live in Spain it’s not the desperate impossibility people are making it out to be. There’s a wealth of information online on how to go about this.

    • Anna says:

      … And the initial income requirement is only for the first five years, then it drops to 800 euros or so per month for a couple. There are loads of websites with advice on moving to Spain after Brexit, if you can be bothered to make the effort.

      • Sandgrounder says:

        I think people have made the effort to check, and the reality is many lower income pensioners who would really benefit from the reduced cost of living will not be able to meet the requirements. That is why they are disappointed. Daily Express anti-EU bigotry, Union flag-waving and Empire nostalgia won’t help here I am afraid. The days of sending in the gunships are long gone.

        • Anna says:

          Where are you getting it from that Spain is a low-cost paradise, Sandgrounder? That went the way of the peseta about 2 decades ago. Again, you don’t seem very well informed. And what do the last 2 sentences of your post even mean? Are you one of these people who think that throwing unsubstantiated verbal abuse around constitutes intelligent debate because HFP readers are usually above that?

    • Mike says:

      Bill – it’s not like you can retire with less than 2500 euro a month income ! Unless you plan to live on fresh air

      • SteveD says:

        I’m sure lots of pensioners living on the Basic State Pension would be interested to know that…

      • J says:

        I’d assume most people looking to retire to Spain would also intend to own their property there outright. Quite difficult to spend 2,500 Euro a month if you don’t have rent/mortgage to pay!

    • BuildTheWall says:

      Good. The state pension will be spent here.

  • Alan says:

    Sounds like you’ve got a touch of RAS syndrome, Rob 😉😂

  • Definitas says:

    I needed to see a doctor whilst staying with in-laws in Germany a couple of years ago. They phoned their GP who offered to see me that day. I produced my EHIC on arrival to be told it was not valid as they, in common with almost all practices and hospitals in Germany, were private. They advised me that it would be very difficult to find anyone who would accept the card and so I paid up. Fortunately, my travel insurance covered the cost minus my excess. Anyone who believes that the EHIC replaces travel insurance cover is very much mistaken, not least because, in a life threatening emergency, you do not want to be trying to negotiate being taken to somewhere that accepts the EHIC. However, for EU citizens coming here it is a gift

    • RussellH says:

      That does not fit with my experience at all.
      Some years ago my partner slipped in a hotel bathroom and broke her arm. The hotelier summoned an ambulance which took her to the local hospital. I dealt with the paperwork – once I had produced her E111 and they had photocopied it we were treated pretty much exactly as would have happened in a UK hospital [and my partner was a hospital consultant, so she knew.]
      The only thing travel insurance paid for was a wheelchair at MUC and BHX. Nothing from the hospital.
      Some years later I lost my asthma inhaler in Germany. My hotel booked me an appointment with a GP to get a prescription. On arrival I was asked for my EHIC. No charge to the GP. I had to pay the pharmacy for the actual inhaler, but was told by my business partner there that that was normal – he would have had to pay too.

      • xcalx says:

        15 years ago I lost my Ventalin inhaler on the Queen Mary 2. Was made to visit doctor, get instructions on how to use from a nurse, fill in no end of disclaimers 2 1/2 hours later and £180 lighter I surfaced with the said £2 item.

        • Nick_C says:

          15 years ago, I got dermatitis while on a cruise around S America. I didn’t have a steroid cream with me, and the spots turned into weeping pustules, which I tried to keep clean with antiseptic lotions. About three days later, I woke up with pain under my left arm, and realised I had an infection which had spread to the lymphatic system.

          An hour on a bed in the ship’s hospital for some IV antibiotics, strong steroid creams, and a couple of dressing changes came to $2000. Everything was charged at Medicare rates, and the bill was fully itemised. I was charged by the hour for the time I spent on the bed. I was even charged for the disposal tip of the thermometer, and the needle used to administer the IV.

          It was an eye opener. I am not surprised the NHS can’t provide the paperwork for US insurance companies; we are just not geared up to cost everything that way. And the cost of setting up comprehensive charging systems might well outweigh the benefit of any additional income that could be claimed. While I’m all in favour of cost control, the NHS is already overly bureaucratic and inefficient, and the ratio of administrators to clinicians is alarming.

    • the_real_a says:

      The same experience for people i know in Spain and Greece. One had a broken arm, the medical facility said they were only entitled to a temporary cast and told to return home to the UK. In Greece it was very difficult to find a govt hospital at the location as all clinics were private. It required a 5 hours car and ferry journey whilst suffering from kidney stones. The practical implication of claiming on the EHIC varies significantly and i always found it bizarre that people would travel without any other insurance.

  • Lost confused says:

    Does anyone know the answer to this? Is a foreign national living in the UK and paying the NHS Surcharge entitled to an EHIC/GHIC? doesn’t give any clues on this if your not an EEA citizen…

    • AJA says:

      Do you have an NHS number? This is not the same number as your NI number. If you do then I think you “may” be entitled to apply for the E/GHIC.

      • KK says:

        Yes, non-EEA citizens with temporary long-term (more than 6 months) visa or permanent residence visa issued by Home Office/UKVI are entitled to apply for EHIC/GHIC. See below link.

        Entitlement to an EHIC is not based on your nationality. It’s based on insurability under EU law. This applies to all EU countries, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

        The UK operates a residency-based healthcare system (in the form of the NHS), which means access is generally determined by residency and not by the past or present payment of National Insurance contributions or UK taxes.


        If you or a family member are not an EU, Norwegian, Icelandic, Liechtensteiner or Swiss national, you’ll have to provide further evidence that you’re eligible.

        You’ll need to complete an EHIC application form (PDF, 546kb), attach a copy of your visa or UK residence permit.

    • Jk says:

      Yes you can. I’ve done it and know others that have also. Just apply and see what happens.

      • Lost confused says:

        Thank KK and JK. We will try the pdf form and perhaps we will have it before our next EU trip as we won’t now be going to Paris next week.

  • NFH says:

    Nobody has explained the rationale for this anomaly on EHICs. Why should the NHS pay for UK residents’ healthcare in the EU only if the UK resident is an EU citizen but not if the UK resident in British? UK-resident EU citizens and British citizens all pay the same rates of tax, so why is there a difference in what the NHS will pay for?

    I realise that this will become a moot point in light of the trade deal, but it would have been an unjustified anomaly if there had been no deal.

    • Anna says:

      That was my gripe with the pre-deal arrangement; I wonder if it was one of the conditions Theresa May agreed to when she was making such a hash of the negotiations.

      • James says:

        Anna, you really are deluded, aren’t you? The deal we’ve ended up with is basically May’s but slightly worse. Suggest you stop seeing everything through the prism of your right leaning world view.

  • Bariummeal says:

    What the newspapers don’t seem to have realised is that the EHIC will continue to be issued and funded for EU nationals living in the UK by the DWP. In addition Brits living in EU before 1st Jan 2021 will retain them. Thus Irish Citizens (even dual nats) in GB can just apply for one.

    Brits living in GB will lose EHIC but get a GHIC.

    So, as an EU citizen living in GB, is it better to have an EHIC or a GHIC? Currently we do not know.

    • ChrisC says:

      To all intents and purposes the only difference between an EHIC and a GHIC is the latter does not have ‘Europe’ in it’s title.

  • TOBIAS L says:


    Thanks for being more open today with your views than you normally (and understandably) are given your semi-public profile through this site, and risk of alienating visitors. This subject, if any, definitely merits it given the jaw-dropping amount of stupidity it took to choose this path for the country.

    For what its worth from an anonymous poster, I wholeheartedly agree with your views and applaud the few remaining people who stick to their logic despite this sinking, flaming, narrow-minded xenophobic ship which once promised so much but is now engulfed in a misplaced sense of nostalgia and delusions of grandeur.

    To the Brexiteers here arguing petty non-sensical points, I take comfort in the fact you’ve been so active on this site with acrimony and bile during what should be a festive and cheerful period, clearly evidencing what we all know is your abyss of resentment and bitterness eating you inside. It’s a sad, but expected, display of your experiences in this world which has led you to become this angry embitterred way you are.

    From someone who only took out a couple of minutes of an otherwise fun filled day, I’m signing off from 2020, wishing (some of) you a great start to 2021!

    • Tocsin says:

      Hold up a mirror, Tobias!


    • the_real_a says:


    • Anna says:

      What an utterly bizarre statement. There is no reason on earth for Leave voters to be acrimonious or bitter, but thank you anyway for taking time out of your fun-filled day (so leaving can’t actually be that bad) to spout such a load of sour grapes and drivel. Happy New Year!

      • James says:

        Leave voters only have acrimony and bitterness. Now we’re ‘out’ if the EU it will turn to the ever more to the BBC, lawyers, judges, critical thinking MPs, teachers, universities etc.

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