TRAVELLING to Europe after Brexit could result in a number of changes for Brits, particularly when it comes to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
So far most EU countries will not honour the EHIC if Britain leaves the bloc without a deal. Here is what you need to know.
What are European Health Insurance Cards?
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives Brits free or discounted medical treatment at state-run hospitals and GPs in any EU country, as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Card holders are entitled to the same treatment (at the same cost) that local citizens are entitled to – so if they pay, you’ll have to pay – and if they get healthcare for free, so will you.
According to MoneySavingExpert.com, more than half of people in the UK don’t have an EHIC and last year almost three million expired.
Can I use my EHIC after Brexit?
The government has warned that the card may not be valid in the event of a No Deal.
Depending on the country, the healthcare offered to Brits may differ – the NHS has offered detailed advice for each EU country.
The government has asked all 31 countries to keep the EHIC in place until December 31, 2020, no matter what the outcome with Brexit.
But so far on three have agreed to cover tourists from the UK if there’s no deal.
If British people need medical help in any of them, after a no-deal Brexit, they will either have to pay or make sure they have travel insurance beforehand.
In its latest update, the government has advised Brits to purchase insurance that protects them in the event of a No Deal Brexit.
It said: “If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019, your EHIC might not be valid anymore.
“Buy travel insurance that comes with healthcare cover before you travel.”
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Recent research from Admiral travel insurance has revealed how medical costs could increase by up to 900 per cent if EHIC is no longer valid in the event of a No Deal Brexit.
Simple stitches could cost up to £500 in Spain, while a heart attack could result in costs up to £32,000 – and Brits could be caught out if they don’t have adequate travel insurance in place.
On March 20, 2019, officials warned that Brits heading to Europe this summer should take out extra travel insurance or they could face huge bills after Brexit.
While the EHIC is still valid up until October 31, after this Brits will need to protect themselves if the UK leaves without a deal.
If you already have travel insurance, your insurer should let you know if there are changes that will affect you after the UK leaves the EU
It adds to the list of things to consider if you’re planning a get-away later this year in Europe – from making sure your passport has enough months left on it, to making sure pet travel is properly covered.
Brits were warned of the high costs of emergency medical treatment and getting back to the UK if they aren’t insured.
All insurance should cover emergency treatment costs, hospital fees or returning Brits home if you have an accident.
And Brits should make sure they check the small print in any cover they already have, it warns.
FCO advice says: “If you already have travel insurance, your insurer should let you know if there are changes that will affect you after the UK leaves the EU.
“If you have questions about what your travel insurance policy covers, or whether it covers possible disruption, you may wish to contact your insurer.”
How can you renew your EHIC card?
In the meantime, you can apply for a new card six months before your existing one runs out.
Renewal applications can be made online via the EHIC website.
It’s free to apply for but some unofficial websites charge a fee for processing your application.
Be careful when looking up the EHIC on Google as many of these websites pay the search engine to appear at the top, meaning some people end up paying for the free service.
Some travel insurers will waive excess fees on your policy if you have an EHIC, and some will require you to have it on you to make sure you are fully insured.
Don’t fall for dodgy EHIC websites
Watch out for unofficial websites that try and catch people out by charging £20 or more to process an EHIC application.
Applying for an EHIC is completely free, as is the card, so the entire process shouldn’t cost you a penny.
The websites might look official, but you should only apply using the official government website www.ehic.org.uk – and you can also find out more information on the NHS EHIC page.
Is an EHIC card free? Where can I get one?
EHICs are completely free and you can apply for one free-of-charge on the official government EHIC website.
They are valid for up to five years, and all UK residents are eligible – although residents of the Channel Islands and Isle of Man aren’t.
Can I use an EHIC rather than buy travel insurance?
The EHIC shouldn’t be used as an alternative to travel insurance, as it doesn’t cover any private medical healthcare or costs, such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK, or lost or stolen property.
It is also not valid on cruises.
ABI spokesperson Sarah Cordey told Sun Online Travel: “Deal or no-deal Brexit, it remains vital to have travel insurance.
“Emergency oversees medical treatment can already mean eye-watering bills, and any loss of the European Health Insurance Card could push costs up even more.
“This will make travel insurance even more important to have than it already is, so make sure you shop around to get the cover that suits your needs and personal circumstances, including any pre-existing medical conditions.”
Travel insurance has a much wider level of cover than the EHIC, for example, EHIC doesn’t always mean free treatment, while travel insurance usually does.
It’s important to have both an EHIC and travel insurance in place before you travel, as some insurers now insist you hold an EHIC, and many will waive the excess if you have one.
Some travel insurers are adding Brexit clauses in case of any disruption which may take place, while others refuse to offer protection.