Do I need an UK European Health Insurance Card (UK EHIC) if I’m traveling abroad?

Lurking in your wallet or purse may be an old EHIC or E111 card. These cards (the European Health Insurance Card and its predecessor) allowed UK travellers to get limited cover for health issues when visiting countries in the EU (and a few other countries like Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein).

Now much as the EHIC card was a useful – and free – thing to have handy when travelling abroad, it was never intended to be a substitute for travel insurance. The things the card covered you for varied from country to country and generally allowed some state healthcare free or reduced. Many a holidaymaker came a cropper after wandering into a private hospital unawares and being hit with a bill. Regardless, it was well worth travelling with the card handy.

Now we’ve left the EU, the EHIC card will eventually cease to exist. Check the expiry date on the card – yours will be valid until that date. The good news is there will be a replacement, the GHIC card. The GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) has just been announced by the Government and – caveat warning – is so new the details are still being ironed out.

The new rules are a little complicated, so it’s simpler to say, don’t assume your old EHIC or new GHIC will cover you in every country so check the website before travel. Confusingly, if you apply now, you go through the old process. Here’s how you apply:

Now, if you’re thinking you can put in a sneaky application and get an extended EHIC card, I’m afraid the system will figure this out and make you apply for a replacement card! You need you National Insurance number to apply.

A word of warning. Our mates over at MoneySavingExpert have highlighted that there are a number of fake websites out there that look official but are charging to help you with the application process. This is legal, but immoral. So only go through the official Government website. The card and process is free so if anyone asks for cash you know it’s not legit.

Oh, and one other thing. As is the case with all kinds of official documents (I’m thinking driving licences and passports in particular) there are currently delays with the issuing of these cards. So get your application in today!

Travel insurance

Even if the EHIC/GHIC card is covered in the country you are going to (and don’t be fooled by the ‘global’ – much is yet to be sorted), it’s no substitute for travel insurance, which is even more essential if you’re going abroad.

It’s been a chaotic year for travel cover, with new policies drying up completely at one point.  Good news though, you can still get policies and many of them will cover you for Covid – but only if you are diagnosed (not just displaying symptoms).

Travel insurance documents are long and complicated, but it’s really important you read the key facts documents so you know exactly what you’re covered for and what excess limits/claim requirements are. Don’t forget to take the docs with you if you travel – and keep the emergency claim number and your policy number on your phone or email so you can locate it quickly if you need it.

MoneySavingExpert has a great guide to the best policies around at the moment here:

Don’t just assume you’ll be covered for all things Covid related abroad too. Check to find the entry requirements for the country you’re visiting and what happens if you test positive while abroad. There’s a huge amount of variation from country to country – and things change quickly. So keep a close eye on the guidance for your destination.

Featured in Mirror – Martyn James

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