There are currently 27 million people within the UK who hold European Health Insurance Cards, with each card valid for five years. If you are planning to visit the EU, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein or Switzerland and you card is due to expire soon, you may be worried about the impact of Brexit.
What does an EHIC currently cover?
If you hold an EHIC, you are currently entitled to medical care provided by the country you visit, if you are ill or involved in an accident. The treatment will be free, or the cost will be lowered, although the card should not be used an alternative to travel insurance. This is because only certain types of state provided care is covered, which may not be available in the area you visit.
The cover extends to pre-existing medical conditions, maternity care and emergency medical care. This means that individuals with chronic illnesses which need daily treatment, will benefit from access to medical care on the same terms as those who are a resident of the country.
What does Brexit mean for European Health Insurance Cards?
Entitlement to UK-issued EHIC cards is currently determined by EU law, with a residency-based system used as the deciding factor for eligibility. Those who pay taxes or National Insurance contributions within the UK are currently entitled to an EHIC card.
However, in 2016 the UK voted to leave the European Union, in a decision known as Brexit. The negotiations are ongoing, and the official Brexit date has now been moved to October 2019. It is hoped that the UK will be able to arrange a deal with the EU, which will provide access to schemes such as EHIC cards.
Will EHIC’s be valid if there is no Brexit deal?
If the UK is forced to leave the UK without a deal, the EHIC will no longer be valid. The government is currently advising those who are planning to travel within the EEA or to Switzerland, to ensure they purchase adequate travel insurance.
The government is seeking to arrange healthcare agreements for UK nationals, but currently there are no final plans in place. In the Brexit White Paper which the government issued on 12 July 2018, they confirmed they want UK nationals to be able to continue to use their EHIC cards to access healthcare while visiting EEA countries.
There are currently reciprocal arrangements in place between the UK and some countries outside the EU, including New Zealand and Australia. It is hoped that if EHIC’s are no longer valid a similar reciprocal deal can be arranged with EU countries.
What will happen if no-deal is arranged?
The government is currently trying to arrange a withdrawal agreement which both the UK and the EU will agree upon. If a deal is agreed before the October deadline, the UK has agreed with the EU that there will be a transitional period until 31 December 2020.
This will provide the UK with time to put in place the plans for the relationship going forward with the EU. These plans are likely to include a continuation of access to the EHIC scheme, or the arrangement of a similar healthcare scheme. During this transitional period the current EU laws will apply to residents of the UK.
This would mean that EHIC cards will still be valid to use until the end of the transitional period on 31 December 2020. If required, the transitional period could be extended by a maximum of two years to allow further agreements to be made.
Should I renew by European Health Insurance Card after Brexit?
As UK residents can still access the EHIC scheme until at least 31 December 2020, it is advisable to complete your EHIC renewal. Although, there are no guarantees that you will be able to use your card beyond this date it is completely free to apply for one.
If you travel to Europe without an EHIC or suitable travel insurance, you will not be protected from potential expensive medical bills.
How do I renew my EHIC after Brexit?
As the negotiations are still ongoing between the UK and the EU, the actual process for renewing a card after Brexit is not yet confirmed. If UK residents are still able to access the EHIC scheme, it is likely that renewing your card will be very similar to the current process.
The quickest way to currently renew your card is through the official EHIC Services Portal, although you can also renew by phone or post. If your details have changed and you do not have your pin, it is likely that you will not be able to renew your card online.
To find out more you should call the EHIC application line on: 0300 3301350 or send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. When you contact the EHIC team you will need to provide your name, date of birth and address.
Will I be covered if I do not have my renewed card with me
If you have renewed your card but it does not arrive in time for your trip, you will still be covered. This is because the EHIC cover begins on the date you make your application. If you require medical treatment while abroad you may need to complete an application form for a Provisional Replacement Certificate, which is commonly referred to as a PRC.
Will I need travel insurance after Brexit?
The EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance, so both before and after Brexit you should arrange adequate cover before travelling. The EHIC will not cover a variety of costs such as; private treatment, mountain rescue, repatriation to the UK, lost or stolen belongings and they are not valid for cruises.
In fact, some insurance companies insist that their customers hold EHIC cards or will waive any excess charges for those who have a valid EHIC. This means that if you are planning on travelling to the EU, your insurance company may require you to renew your EHIC card while you are entitled to access the scheme.
To find out more about the benefits of applying for an EHIC, please contact our team today.