GHIC vs EHIC: Why you should get your free insurance card


Around two-thirds of Britons don’t have, or don’t know if they have, a vital travel health insurance card that offers state supplied healthcare in some countries.

Meanwhile, a third of Britons are set to see their European Health Insurance Card expire in the next four years, with 15million UK holidaymakers having travelled to Europe without travel insurance in the past, according to new data by Direct Line.

And, as the travel industry sees a huge spike in holiday bookings, it’s important that Britons travelling abroad are covered in case of a health emergency, as medical claims could cost holidaymakers an average of £1,500.

Only one in ten have applied for the new Global Health Insurance Card so far, as majority of holidaymakers are missing out on essential emergency medical cover when visiting Europe

The previous European Health Insurance Card is now being phased out in the UK and replaced by the new Global Health Insurance Card. 

But, only one in ten have applied for the new health insurance card, and only 17 per cent say they plan to apply for one before jetting off on their holidays.

Here’s everything you need to know about the GHIC, including how to get your hands on one, what it covers, and which scams to be on the look out for.

What is a GHIC, and how is it different to an EHIC? 

Following Britain’s formal exit from the EU, the Government announced that it would be transitioning from the original European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) in favour of the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). 

The GHIC gives UK citizens access to state supplied healthcare in case of emergencies when visiting any EU country, and it does not cost anything to apply. 

However, unlike the old EHIC, the new card will no longer give Britons access to state healthcare in Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

If you currently have a EHIC, its worth considering the switch to a GHIC, although your original card will still be valid until the expiration date and you will continued to be covered in the additional European countries. 

Around 37million health insurance cards have been issued in the UK so far, though over 60 per cent of Britons say they are unsure of what the card is, or what it covers.

Tom Bishop, head of Direct Line Travel Insurance said: ‘We hope this year could finally see us return to holidaying abroad without the burden of restrictions.

‘But it’s worrying to see the GHIC gap is growing, so we urge anyone travelling overseas to make sure they, and their family, have all got one before their trip.

‘As always, the best way to protect yourself when booking holidays and travelling within Europe is to carry a free, valid EHIC or GHIC and to add a comprehensive travel insurance policy for that critical additional layer of protection.’

The new GHIC, which is replacing the EHIC, gives UK citizens access to state supplied healthcare in case of emergencies when visiting any EU country, and is free to apply for

What does a EHIC or GHIC cover? 

The cards cover pre-existing medical conditions and routine maternity care, as well as emergency care for travellers outside of their country of residence. 

So individuals with chronic illnesses can travel safely, knowing they will continue to receive treatment on the same terms as the citizens of the country they are visiting. 

The new GHIC will still provide cover for existing illnesses, routine maternity care, and other emergencies – but ongoing treatments, such as chemotherapy, will need to be arranged before you travel to ensure they are available at your destination.    

Holidaymakers will receive the same treatment options as national citizens and so they should pay the same price for treatment as citizens of that country. 

This means that if it’s free of charge for national citizens, it should be free of charge for you too.

But a GHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance.  

The GHIC only provides treatment in state hospitals, as opposed to private medical healthcare, and doesn’t cover repatriation costs to the UK, or mountain rescue. 

So, it is still vital that travellers purchase travel insurance for their holiday, to ensure they are covered for all emergencies.

What scams do I need to be on the look out for? 

Unfortunately, there is a risk of being scammed when applying for a GHIC.

Around one in five mistakenly believe they must pay for a GHIC to replace the EHIC, with the average estimated cost standing at £9.30. 

Scammers have taken advantage of this, and set up official-looking websites ‘selling’ the cards for a fee – sometimes up to hundreds of pounds.  

A GHIC offers Britons in EU countries vital medical cover for pre-existing medical conditions, maternity, and emergency care

A GHIC offers Britons in EU countries vital medical cover for pre-existing medical conditions, maternity, and emergency care

Genuine GHICs are available through the official NHS website.

You also don’t need to apply for a GHIC until your current EHIC expires, but scammers may try suggest your card is not valid within the final months, so be extra cautious of scammers pressing you to pay for a new health insurance card.

You should also report scam adverts that may appear online. You can do this by visiting the Advertising Standard Authority’s website and complete a  quick reporting form. 

Finally, you should not give out your personal or financial information to services you do not recognise or are expecting to be contacted by. 

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