British holidaymakers will be able to continue to access free healthcare when travelling abroad after Brexit it has been announced.
The current European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) permits UK travellers to access free healthcare at the same cost (often free) as local residents while on their holiday.
As a part of the new Brexit agreement, travellers will be able to continue to use their existing EHIC cards until they expire for emergency medical treatment.
A new GHIC card (UK Global Health Insurance Card) will gradually be phased in during 2021 and will allow users to access healthcare whenever they travel abroad.
From January, those who do not have an EHIC can apply for the new GHIC via the official NHS website here.
Anyone who holds the old-style EHIC does not need to apply for the new GHIC and can continue to use it until it expires which can be for up to five years.
It is important to note that the GHIC cards which will be issued from January will only cover those travelling to the European Union. They are not valid when travelling to the Schengen countries which include Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.
Full details of the new reciprocal healthcare arrangements have yet to be confirmed which has led to some uncertainty over whether travellers with pre-existing medical conditions will have the same level of cover under the new GHIC.
The current Brexit agreement states that travellers in need of specialised treatment in the EU including cancer care or dialysis must pre-arrange this directly with their healthcare provider.
It is important to note that if you are travelling abroad you should also contract private holiday insurance to cover every eventuality including repatriation.
The GHIC/EHIC will also not cover you in the event that your luggage is delayed or your holiday is cancelled.
Although the new GHIC card is promoted as being ‘Global’ it is unlikely that travellers will be covered worldwide.
Instead, it is expected that the cover will be limited to travel within the EU and to countries where the UK has existing reciprocal healthcare agreements such as Australia, New Zealand, Gibraltar, the Falklands, Isle of Man, Jersey, Bosnia and Herzegovina plus a number of UK territories in the Caribbean such as the British Virgin Islands and St Helena.
Information on the new GHIC and how you can apply can be found here.