EHIC and GHIC - everything you need to know

The free card that helps reduce medical costs when travelling in Europe

5 minutes

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Travelling to Europe soon? Make sure you have your EHIC or GHIC in place, as well as your travel insurance. Here, we  explain why it’s best to travel with both. 

What's happening to the EHIC card after 31st December 2020?

Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is still valid after 31 December 2020 until your card expires. If you don’t have one, you can apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) here. From the 1 January 2021 the GHIC and EHIC is accepted in all EU countries but not Norway, Iceland, Switzerland or Liechtenstein. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) let you get state healthcare in Europe at a reduced or no cost. 

However, not all medical costs are covered by these health agreements, so your travel insurance will cover you for all other medical expenses outside of that, including bringing you home if you're not well enough to complete your trip.

EHIC or GHIC covers you for state treatment and any costs not covered can be claimed against your travel insurance.

Does it replace European travel insurance?

No, the health agreement should be considered complementary to your European travel insurance rather than a replacement. The reciprocal health agreement will only cover you for medical treatment that's normally provided by the state in the country you’re visiting.

In the UK, we're used to the NHS providing free medical care at the point of need, but in some European countries, the state may charge for medical care. So, if the local residents are required to pay for some GP services for example, so will you.

The health agreement covers you for state treatment and any costs not covered can be claimed against your travel insurance. With LV= travel insurance, we waive the excess if the health agreement has been used to reduce the cost of the claim.

In addition to medical cover, LV= travel insurance can also cover you:

  • If you need to cancel your holiday
  • For repatriation to the UK (if medically necessary) 
  • If you need to cancel booked excursions
  • For lost or stolen baggage, money and passports
  • For emergency rescue while taking part in winter sports

Why do I need an EHIC or GHIC?

Many European travel insurance policies, including LV=, expect you to use public health facilities, not private ones, where possible. To do this, you'll need to ask to be treated at a public facility and show your required documentation when you arrive at the hospital or clinic.

The good news is that when you use your EHIC or a reciprocal health agreement to get public healthcare in Europe, you won't be expected to pay the excess on your insurance policy.

The health agreement will also cover you for pre-existing medical conditions that won’t necessarily be automatically covered by your European travel insurance. So if you're receiving treatment for a heart condition in the UK, that treatment will be available if you need it when you show your required documentation in Europe. However, you can’t specifically travel to Europe to get treatment using your EHIC.

If you're pregnant and you need treatment for your pregnancy, your health agreement will cover both routine and emergency treatment while you’re in Europe.

Do I have to pay for an EHIC or GHIC?

No, the EHIC and GHIC is free. There are some third party websites that charge to help you apply for an EHIC, but the process is very straightforward, so there’s no need to pay for help to get a card.

How do I get an EHIC or GHIC?

The simplest way to apply for an EHIC is online. You can do this through the UK government website. 

Do children need one?

Yes, each member of the family will need their own EHIC or GHIC if they're travelling to Europe. If a child is under 16, their parent or guardian can apply for a card for them.

How long does it last?

Your EHIC is valid for five years. After that time, you’ll need to replace it with a GHIC. Keep an eye on the renewal date, as without your EHIC it could be expensive to get medical treatment. The expiry date is shown on the card. 

Things to remember about your EHIC or another reciprocal health agreement

  • It's not a substitute for European travel insurance - you need both
  • They're free, so don't pay for one
  • Children need their own card 
  • They last for up to five years
  • Carry it with you at all times when you're in Europe

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