Britain finally left the European Union on January 31, 2020 – almost 4 years after 52% of the British citizens voted to leave. So far, British citizens have been able to enjoy the same rights and liberties as all other EU citizens, but with Brexit, some things are bound to change, including the freedom of movement. Although for short-term trips to the EU, British citizens will still be able to travel visa-free (as long as they do not intend to work or study), they may not have access to the same benefits as before Brexit, including the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Can I still use EHIC after Brexit?
Yes, up until December 31, 2020, you can still use your EHIC when travelling to Europe. The rules for what will happen starting from 2021, however, are still unknown.
Even though Brexit was finally signed on January 31, 2020, the country is expected to be in the transitional period up until December 31, 2020. Therefore, up until then, everything will be the same as when Britain was still part of the EU. You can still travel to the EU (and Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland) with just your passport and you are still eligible to use an EHIC.
Read: What is the GHIC?
How to apply for EHIC after Brexit?
You have to apply for your EHIC in the same way as you did before Brexit: through the official EHIC online application form, which is free of charge (EHIC.org.uk). You will have to create an account, entering your full name and your email address.
Do not apply through any other website which charges you money for an EHIC application. EHIC is always issued free of charge.
You can only apply for an EHIC if you are over 16 years of age. You can also apply for your dependents using your account (ie. your partner or any children under the age of 16).
Do I have to apply for a new EHIC after Brexit?
No, if you already have a valid EHIC issued in the UK, you do not have to apply for another one – you can continue to use the same EHIC up until it expires. In the UK, EHIC-s are issued for periods between six months and five years. You can apply for an EHIC renewal within the six months before its expiration date – provided that it is before December 31, 2020.
Will I need to travel health insurance if I can still use EHIC?
Yes, you always need travel health insurance when you are traveling abroad. This also includes trips to the EU, where your EHIC is operational and usable. Why?
Well, because the EHIC is not a substitute for travel health insurance. Its function is to allow you access to public health services in the same manner as the citizens of the country you are visiting.
This does not mean that you will be treated free of charge or at a reduced cost, it simply means that you will be held to the same account as that country’s nationals, and if they have to pay for a medical service, then so do you. Not all countries offer free or inexpensive health services, so if you get ill you may end up having to shoulder the medical bills all by yourself. Additionally, if you want to seek medical care in a private health facility, you will not be covered by EHIC.
However, it is different in the sense that it offers coverage for pre-existing conditions, which private travel health insurance plans do not.
What will EHIC cover?
The European Health Insurance Card covers the following:
- Doctor consultations or visits. If you have a medical emergency, you can consult with a doctor either free of charge, or for a low fee (depending on the EU State). However, you have to visit a doctor who has a contract with the national health insurance fund a similar institution.
- Emergency dental procedures. An EHIC only covers emergency dental incidents and only from dentists who are registered with the state healthcare system.
- If a country has a public healthcare system, you will be able to receive hospital treatment free of charge at university and regional hospitals. In not, you will have to pay “room rent” (i.e. a daily fee), or a percentage of costs (i.e. 10%).
- Prescription drugs and medicine.
- Emergency services (ambulance/ER).
Additionally, unlike with travel health insurance, with an EHIC, you will be covered for maternity or pregnancy-related issues. For example, if there are any complications with your pregnancy, you will be covered under EHIC, but you will not be covered if you purposefully travel abroad in order to give birth in a specific hospital.
You will also be covered is for any health problems resulting from a pre-existing condition, such as diabetes.
This is why you need both an EHIC and travel health insurance.
Where can I use EHIC?
You can use EHIC in all EU and EEA countries, except the following:
- Isle of Man
- San Marino
- Channel Islands