Holiday season is approaching, and with the cost of living crisis continuing to affect us all many of us will be wanting to watch the pennies when it comes to this year’s seasonal break.
All of which means you’ll want to avoid the risk of unwanted bills such as those for medical treatment, which could pile up if you don’t have comprehensive travel insurance and fall ill or have an accident while you’re away.
Another way to ensure you’re properly shielded from landing an expensive hospital bill if you do need treatment is to ensure you have a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) before you jet off.
Just what is a GHIC and how can you apply for one?
What is a Global Health Insurance Card?
A Global Health Insurance Card allows you to get medical treatment in EU and Switzerland for the same cost as a resident of that country.
That means if treatment is free there you’ll get it for free also.
Fot most people the GHIC replaces the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which was valid for UK citizens before the country’s exit from the European Union.
If you have an existing EHIC it will continue to be valid until the expiry date after which you should replace if with an GHIC. However, you can continue to use an EHIC if you have rights under the Withdrawal Agreement.
You should note that the GHIC does not replace travel insurance – so you should also ensure you have taken out a comprehensive policy before you go on holiday.
What does the Global Health Insurance Card include?
The GHIC (or EHIC, if you have one of those) allows you to access what is deemed ‘medically necessary’ state-provided healthcare while visiting an EU country (or Switzerland).
‘Medically necessary’ applies to any type of treatment which cannot reasonably wait until you are back home, and includes the following:
- emergency treatment and visits to A&E
- treatment for a long-term or pre-existing medical condition
- routine medical care for pre-existing conditions that need monitoring
- routine maternity care, as long as you’re not going abroad to give birth
- oxygen therapy and kidney dialysis
If you are likely to need treatment such as chemotherapy or kidney dialysis while you are abroad you should pre-arrange this with the relevant healthcare provider in the country you are visiting.
You should check the Foreign Office website for information in how to access medical care in the country you are visiting.
How do you apply for a GHIC?
You can apply for a GHIC via the NHS website.
The card is free, and you can apply for a new one up to six months before your current card expires.
You’ll need the following details to hand:
- full name
- date of birth
- National Insurance or NHS number (England and Wales)
- CHI number (Scotland)
- Health and Care number (Northern Ireland)
If you are travelling abroad and need medical care but do not have your card with you, you can apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate to prove your entitlement to treatment.
You can also apply for this via the NHS website.
Where can you use the GHIC?
You can use your GHIC or EHIC in any EU country.
You can also use it in Switzerland, as long as you fall into one of the following categories:
- a British national
- a Swiss national
- an EU citizen
- a refugee
- a stateless person
- the dependant or survivor of someone with one of these nationalities or statuses
You cannot use a GHIC or an existing EHIC if you are visiting Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein – although you can use a new EHIC (one which has a Union flag hologram in the top right-hand corner) in these countries.
In all cases, you should ensure you have travel insurance with healthcare cover before you go.
You can also access medically necessary treatment in Norway, such as emergency care or treatment for a pre-existing condition, if you are a UK passport holder.