Heading to another country for a holiday or work used to be straightforward, especially when it came to healthcare. If you fell ill while in an EU country, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) had you covered. But now, Brexit has changed things, and you might be wondering how easy it is to get medical treatment abroad these days.
JMW is here to answer just that. We'll go through the new rules and what cards you need to carry to make sure you're looked after should you need medical help while overseas.
Brexit brought the introduction of the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which for the most part replaces the EHIC for people from the UK. If you're in an EU country and need medical help, showing your GHIC can get you the same sort of care that locals receive, often for free or at a much lower price.
There are some differences between the EHIC and the GHIC you should know about. While the EHIC covered you in a few extra places like Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein, the GHIC only covers you in EU countries. So if you're planning to visit those other destinations, you'll need to look into additional healthcare cover.
Getting a GHIC is pretty straightforward. If your EHIC has expired, or if you've never had one, you can apply for a GHIC online for free. Once it arrives, make sure to pack it with your travel essentials.
A GHIC is not just for those unexpected emergencies like accidents or sudden illnesses. You can also use it for seeing a local GP if you're feeling a bit under the weather, or for getting necessary treatments like dialysis if you have a long-term health condition.
It's important to note, though, that the GHIC doesn't cover everything. If you're going abroad specifically to get medical treatment, like surgery, this card won't cover the costs. It's also not going to cover things like mountain rescue in ski resorts or being flown back to the UK. For those situations, you'll need additional travel insurance.
In simpler terms, the GHIC helps you get basic medical care, meaning for anything more serious or specific, you'll need to have extra healthcare cover in place.
So while you're planning what to pack for your trip, also think about what healthcare services you might need. That way, you can travel with peace of mind, knowing you're covered for the basics and then some.
Always carry the GHIC with you - it's a bit like your passport for healthcare. If you suddenly feel sick or have an accident, head to a local hospital or doctor's clinic. Once you get there, show them your GHIC card.
If you're not sure where to go, you can ask at your hotel or look up local healthcare providers online. It's a good idea to know where the nearest hospital or clinic is before you visit a country, just in case.
In short, not having a GHIC could get tricky and potentially expensive. Without the GHIC, you won't have the benefit of reduced-cost or free medical treatment in EU countries. If you get sick or have an accident, you'll have to pay for your healthcare just like any other foreign visitor.
The cost can vary depending on what you need. A simple visit to the doctor for a minor issue might not break the bank, but if it's something serious like hospital admission, the bills can run into thousands of pounds.
It's also a hassle because you'll likely have to fill in more paperwork and make upfront payments for any healthcare you receive. You won't have that quick and straightforward access that the GHIC provides, where you just show your card and get treated.
This is why having travel insurance that includes medical cover is vital, especially if you don't have a GHIC. Good travel insurance can cover those hefty medical bills and even take care of getting you back home if you're seriously ill.
We've got some top tips to keep you safe and well while you're on holiday:
By following these recommendations and tips, you're setting yourself up for a more relaxed and secure trip. With your GHIC and backup travel insurance in place, you can focus on enjoying your holiday rather than worrying about 'what-ifs'.