European Health Insurance Card after Brexit

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Europe, Opinion / Profiles

The current impasse in negotiations between the EU and UK over the terms of the latter’s exit from the former raises the increased likelihood of a No-Deal resolution to Brexit at the end of 2020. This raises some obvious questions about the status of UK holidaymakers in the EU next year, incuding whether the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will still be valid?

What is European Health Insurance Card?

Currently the European Health Insurance Card allows UK citizens to access free or reduced cost state medical treatment in the EU, as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

According to the BBC, British travellers to the EU receive £150 million of treatment each year via the EHIC scheme. This covers travellers with pre-existing conditions as well as emergency situations. Details of what is covered by the EHIC can be found here.

The EHIC card is valid until the end of 2020 during the Brexit transition period. However, if there is no deal between the UK and EU the EHIC will cease to be valid come 1 January 2021.

European Health Insurance Card After Brexit?

Access to low cost or free medical services will depend upon negotiations between the UK and individual countries.

Currently Ireland, Spain and Portugal have agreed to continue current arrangements into 2021. Spain has agreed that the EHIC should continue as is, while both Ireland and Portugal have guaranteed that UK citizens can receive free medical treatment upon production of their passports.

For other EU countries, UK citizens might need to pay full price for medical services provided on their travels.

“If UK travellers don’t have insurance, and depending on the terms of the Brexit deal, they may have to pay, same as most destinations outside Europe,” cautions Sasha Gainullin, CEO, of Battleface Insurance.

Travel Insurance for Europe

In order to prevent landing with an unexpected medical bill on their holidays, people should take out travel insurance to ensure they are fully covered. The NHS website makes it clear that the EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance.

It is prudent to take out travel insurance even if the EHIC card is still valid. As in certain cases this would only cover basic healthcare.

For instance, according to Which, the EHIC card does not cover the cost of emergency rescue or repatriation back to the UK.

Travel insurance will also cover ancillary costs or losses, such as the cancellation of the rest of your trip. As inclusions vary considerably between travel insurance policies it is best to discuss what is or what is not included.

European Health Insurance Card Renewal

If the UK does negotiate a Brexit deal with the EU, it is likely that the EHIC scheme will be extended to 2021 at least.

So, it is a sound idea to apply for European Health Insurance Card or renew your existing one – after all it is free. You can make an European Health Insurance Card application online via the NHS website.

Other Post-Brexit EU Travel Changes

A no-deal Brexit could affect travel to Europe in several ways in addition to the EHIC.

The UK Government website advises that you should ensure that your passport is still valid for at least six months prior to any travel. Also if you are planning to drive on your holiday you should apply for an International Drivers Permit (IDP), as your UK licence may no longer be valid in the EU.

If driving your own car in the EU ensure that you have a green card, which will provide you with statutory cover, although you will still have to take out any necessary insurance.

There will also be new arrangements for UK citizens travelling to Europe with a pet. The process which will take four months is outlined here.

Of course, the UK and EU might end up agreeing to maintain the status quo, but it is best to take the above precautions to ensure that your next holiday in the EU does not contain a few unpleasant surprises.

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Mark Bibby Jackson

Mark Bibby Jackson

Before setting up Travel Begins at 40, Mark was the publisher of AsiaLIFE Cambodia and a freelance travel writer. When he is not packing and unpacking his travelling bag, Mark writes novels, including To Cook A Spider and Peppered Justice. He loves walking, eating, tasting beer, isolation and arthouse movies, as well as talking to strangers on planes, buses and trains whenever possible. Most at home when not at home.

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