Anyone traveling to the European Union will have a checklist of things that they need to carry along with them. One item that often gets forgotten but is of tantamount importance is the European Health Insurance Card which helps people get medical cover when visiting family or making a short work visit to any country in the EU. More than 200 million people currently have an EHIC card and use it through the scheme to look after their health.
With the recent BREXIT, the Global Health Insurance card (GHIC) became the main healthcare cover available abroad. But those who still hold the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can continue using it until it expires. The people applying for a new card or looking to renew their EHIC are henceforth expected to register themselves for the GHIC.
Both these cards are available free of cost and enable citizens of the UK to avail healthcare benefits free of cost, or sometimes, at a reduced price. But neither card is a replacement or alternative for travel insurance. There are certain things covered under travel insurance that a person may not be able to obtain with an EHIC or GHIC, but at the same time, there are some options that they provide under both.
The application process for GHIC
The application process for the GHIC is simple and only requires filling a form on the NHS website. Several platforms assist in the application filling process to simplify the process further. They need to provide some mandatory details like your name, address, date of birth, and national insurance number. A person may apply for their partner as well as for children below the age of 16. In place of the National Insurance, people residing in England and Wales will need to provide their NHS number, while those in Scotland can provide their CHI number while Northern Island residents can provide their Health and Care number.
Students looking to go to the UK to study further can also apply for GHIC. However, the process is a little different and not possible through an online application. For students, a card that corresponds with the exact duration of their study course is necessary. They have to provide
additional details like the name of the course, its duration, the name and address of the institution, along with course specifics as part of the application process.
Terms of using the GHIC or EHIC
People can use the UK EHIC card when visiting any country in the European Union, as well as Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. As long as a person is legally residing in the UK and does not have a healthcare cover provided by any EU country or if they happen to be a family member of an entitled individual – they are eligible. People who are registered under S1, E121, E109, or E106 as well as those possessing an A1 document are also eligible to apply for this card.
A slightly different issue arises when a person possesses dual nationality. Those living in the UK but possessing citizenship of UK and Swiss, Norwegian, Icelandic, EU, or Liechtenstein would be able to apply for the UK EHIC as long as they hold British citizenship or were citizens of an EU country before becoming British citizens. However, people born in the UK and who have lived there before Jan 2021 are not eligible for the new UK EHIC but can avail of the cover of the UK GHIC.
Purpose of the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC)
If a person needs healthcare when in any EU country, this card will help assist if they need treatment during the stay, which they cannot delay till their return. Thus, they cover emergencies like accidents, sudden pregnancies, kidney dialysis, maternity care, chemotherapy, and so on under the GHIC.
It is important to note that they would not assist anyone if they travel to the EU for the sole purpose of getting treated or giving birth. Some significant medical assistance like dialysis may also require the person to inform a healthcare provider, in advance, to make arrangements for the same.
What is important to remember is that they do not cover treatment at a private healthcare facility under GHIC. Similarly, the kind of medical care received will vary from country to country. Some procedures that may be freely available to residents of one country may not be freely available to residents of another country. With a GHIC, a person will only have access to the medical care that the residents of that place have access to. They also cover treatment in the event of falling ill during transit to the EU under the card scheme.
It is best to make sure they carry along their GHIC when traveling. However, if the card has been misplaced or left behind and a person needs treatment, the best way forward is to apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate by getting in touch with the NHS Service Authority.
Process for a Provisional Replacement Certificate
A Provisional Replacement Certificate can be issued if a person travels to Europe without a GHIC and needs medical care. Other than providing their certificate, they should get in touch with the authorities during working hours and hand over their name, address, birth date, National Insurance Number, name of treatment facility along with a few other details to receive the document. The Provisional Certificate will provide the same cover as the person would have received with the card.
GHIC versus Travel Insurance
Most people consider GHIC a better alternative than travel insurance, but the two should not be interchangeable. The GHIC covers only necessary medical treatment and only at state facilities. Private treatment does not get covered under this. Similarly, if an accident requires that they fly the person back to the UK, these costs are not covered, which is why a person should not substitute travel insurance with a GHIC card but should travel with their medical insurance as well as have a GHIC card at hand.
To switch from an EHIC to a GHIC, apply for the new card six months before expiry, before the current card expires. With the current high demand, the application processing time is not as quick as it was. But once obtained, the card is valid for five years and has the expiry mentioned on it.