After months of imposing travel restrictions on many parts of the world, they are finally lifting, and people have begun cautiously traveling if the need arises. In June 2021, England allowed its citizens to travel internationally. Travel insurance is certainly important when traveling, but it is also significant to have some health cover while you are away in another country.
The Global Health Insurance Card is a replacement for the European Health Insurance Card, which will soon be discontinued. Under this card, individuals receive protection for necessary healthcare and emergency treatment when they are in the European Union for business travel, holidays, studying, or any other temporary stay. Although it is known as a Global Health Insurance Card, people should know what the card covers.
Who can this card be availed by?
All those who are UK residents are eligible for this card. However, in addition to this, non-UK residents who reside in the UK or UK students going abroad to study in a different country in the European Union are all eligible candidates.
Non-UK citizens may be required to showcase some proof of residence when applying for the card. At the same time, students applying for a GHIC will have a different process of application, which can only be done by post. The validity of a Student GHIC depends on the length of the course.
Every family member, including children, requires their GHIC. Individuals wishing to apply need to be at least 16 years of age to apply for the GHIC. Therefore, parents will have to apply for their children in the dependents section of the form.
What makes the EHIC different from the GHIC?
There are not many differences between the earlier EHIC and its successor, the GHIC. However, while the EHIC covered all EU countries plus Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland, the GHIC only covers the EU countries. Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein are excluded under this card. Even for those people still using the valid EHIC, as of 1st January 2021, it will not cover Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. The exception to this rule is if the individual was visiting one of these countries before 1st January 2021, in this instance, they will continue receiving health coverage under this card until they leave the country.
One must also take note that the GHIC card does not cover certain European territories. Some of these include:
- The Isle of Man
- Channel Islands
- San Marino
- The Vatican
When and why should a person apply for the GHIC?
Those holding an EHIC should look at the expiry date mentioned on the card. They can use the card until it expires but should apply for the GHIC as the card nears expiry. They can get through the application process online, and the card usually arrives within ten days. If you are likely to travel in the near future, you should apply in advance so that the card comes on time.
Most people applying now will have to apply for a GHIC and not the EHIC. However, there are a few groups of people that can still apply for the EHIC. These include:
- A person who is an EEA, EU, or Swiss national and has been living in the UK since before Jan 1, 2021
- A UK national residing in the EU by 31 December 2020 and receiving healthcare by the UK
- A UK student who was studying or was on placement to the EU before 31st December 2020
- An individual meeting other criteria under the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
A person should apply for this card when traveling abroad because of the simple reason that it entitles the individual to emergency healthcare that may not be able to wait till the person’s return to the UK. The card also covers medical care for pre-existing conditions, along with routine pregnancy checks. However, planned medical treatment or pregnancies where the person has gone abroad intending to give birth would likely not be covered under this card.
Keep in mind that the GHIC doesn’t provide all treatment for free. Many countries may charge their citizens a certain amount for healthcare, while others may not cover all the things provided free of charge by the NHS. The EHIC and GHIC are signed with reciprocal agreements so EU citizens visiting the UK can avail these same medical benefits if needed.
Is the GHIC an international card?
As mentioned earlier, although it has the word ‘global’ in its abbreviation, the GHIC only covers countries in the EU and doesn’t extend any further. However, there are a few reciprocal agreements that the UK has forged with some countries, including Australia and New Zealand but it would be ideal to read up on all the points and medical conditions covered in these places before traveling.
For individuals traveling abroad, if they need to see a doctor while in the EU, presenting the GHIC card at the healthcare facility will give you the benefits needed. For this reason, it is best to keep the GHIC with you at all times. However, one needs to remember that this card can only be used at state-run medical facilities. Getting medical assistance through private centers is not covered under this card.
At times, the individual may need to pay for the treatment first and then claim the refund. For this to happen with ease, it is best to keep all bills and receipts for submission. On the other hand, there may be instances where they expect patients to pay some amount towards the cost of their care, known as co-payment. This amount is not refundable under the GHIC.
What is the cost of applying for the GHIC?
There is no cost of applying for the GHIC if you apply directly through the official NHS website. However, other websites assist in filling these forms at a small fee.
Lastly, even if you are in the EU and do not have your GHIC with you or have lost it, you need not worry. The option of applying for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) is always there. With a PRC, the individual will receive the same healthcare coverage as the GHIC. For UK nationals to obtain the GHIC, all you need to do is contact the NHS Business Service Authority by providing your details along with your National Insurance Number, plus the address of the department that would provide treatment.
Therefore, after getting acquainted with all this information, if you are considering traveling abroad, buy travel insurance, even if you have a GHIC because the items covered under the GHIC are significantly protected as a comprehensive travel insurance policy.