With the UK’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout progressing well, and lockdown restrictions slowly easing, holiday-starved Brits have shown a renewed interest in escaping abroad this summer, with Google searches relating to ‘summer holidays’ increasing by 711% year on year.
And with holiday-planning excitement sweeping the nation, the travel experts at Forbes Advisor UK, the personal finance insight and comparison website, are calling on UK residents who are planning a trip overseas – particularly to the EU – to make sure they have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), but to beware the pitfalls when applying for one.
GHIC OR EHIC DOES NOT GET YOU WRAPROUND FREE HEALTHCARE
Before Brexit, all UK residents were eligible to apply for a free EHIC, which would entitle the bearer to the same state healthcare as a resident of the EU country they were visiting (it could also be used in Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland). While EHICs that are still ‘in date’ post-Brexit remain valid, they are no longer accepted in non-EU European countries.
The misleadingly named UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) – far from being ‘global’ it only works in the EU – is the EHIC’s successor, and is available for free to UK residents. It, too, gives cardholders access to state healthcare on the same terms as a resident of the country they are visiting – either at a reduced cost compared to a tourist without a GHIC, or free of charge, depending on the healthcare set-up in that country.
Laura Howard, personal finance expert at Forbes Advisor UK, said, “While the GHIC, like the EHIC before it, is a must-have for anyone planning a trip to Europe, it’s not a substitute for a good travel insurance policy, despite its name.
“But the GHIC is certainly a useful companion to travel insurance, because many insurers will reduce or even waive the excess that’s usually payable on a medical claim if the policyholder also has a GHIC. And as the GHIC is free, this really is a no-brainer.”
GHIC WILL NOT GET YOU FREE MEDICAL TREATMENT IN THE EU
If you suffer a minor injury on holiday then you will probably be sent to a local clinic in France or Spain, not a hospital. The staff will make it clear that a GHIC card covers immediate, emergency treatment at hospitals only, you must pay to have your little cuts stitched up and the cost of your antibiotics, plasters, painkillers etc. comes to 300 euros.
Laura added, “Unlike travel insurance, a GHIC won’t provide cover for cancellation of your holiday, whether in whole or part. Nor will it reimburse you should your baggage be lost or stolen or your holiday is delayed and you incur out-of-pocket expenses as a result. Plus, while the GHIC will provide access to cheaper healthcare in the EU, this could still come at a cost to you, whereas travel insurance will help foot the entire bill.
“AGHIC won’t contribute to the cost if you need to be repatriated to the UK for medical reasons, whereas a good travel insurance policy will.
“The other shortcoming of the GHIC is that, despite its name, it only applies to the 27 countries that constitute the EU. It won’t provide any support at all in other parts of the world, including popular destinations like the USA, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, South and Central America, and Australia. Travel insurance, on the other hand, will provide cover in the countries or regions you have said you will be visiting.