What is EHIC?
European Health Insurance Cards or EHIC is a handy little number for accessing health care when abroad. Basically anyone who is insured or covered by a state social security scheme and is a resident of a European Economic Country or Switzerland has the right to apply for one free of charge. The process is easily completed online but beware of scam sites charging fee’s for applications. The EHIC allows the holder to receive medical treatment in another member state either free or at a reduced cost.
Who can apply?
The right to apply for an EHIC is based on your legal country of residence, not citizenship. Carrying a passport for EU country is not enough, you need to be registered as a legal residence at the time of use for it to be valid.
If you require medical assistance while you’re a visitor to another European country then you are entitled to receive the same health care that is offered to local residents. Therefore if the locals receive it at no cost then so do you. If they have to pay towards it then so do you.
So with the confusion around Brexit and the current position of the UK within Europe at the minute where does this leave UK residents if needed healthcare when travelling?
As with everything Brexit related right now it’s all ifs buts and maybes. If there is a Brexit deal the UK and the EU have agreed (for now) a transition period between 29th March 2019 and the 31st December 2020. Think of this period as a stop gap, all current EU law will continue to apply in the UK therefore your EHIC card will still be valid and accepted in the relevant countries.
A no deal Brexit following the 29th March 2019, however, will mean the card will instantly become invalid for UK residents and any cards from other EU countries will not be of any use within the UK. It is likely though that the UK will try to negotiate reciprocal healthcare terms with individual EU countries. Currently there are deals in place with a few non-EU countries.
Regardless of what may or may not happen the best way to travel is always with travel insurance anyway. You never know what could happen and even if you’re entitled to free or reduced healthcare there are plenty of other reasons to have good insurance cover. Worth noting however that some insurance policies stipulate that you carry and EHIC.