UK government admits that the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) may not work in a no-deal Brexit.
While the UK is still an active member of the EU, UK citizens are able to access medical treatment across Europe at the same cost as for local residents, which is often free. However, if the UK exits the EU on the 29th March 2019 without a deal, then this essential card for EU travellers may not be valid for UK citizens.
The Department of Health and Social Care has been forced to issue new no-deal guidance that states that the EHIC may no longer be valid for UK citizens. Instead of the EHIC, the Department of Health and Social Care advises travellers to check the arrangement in the specific country that they are visiting as the card may not be valid. The same applies for UK students who are studying in the EU.
The government adds that it recommends that UK travellers take out a separate travel insurance policy, to ensure they can receive any healthcare requirements across the EU. Furthermore, they stress that this is of particular importance to travellers with long-term and pre-existing health conditions.
For UK citizens living in the EU, the Department of Health recommends that they register for healthcare in the country they live in. However, this may not be possible for every resident as they may need to pay social security contributions to access free or discount healthcare. Furthermore, some countries state you must be a long-term resident in order to register for state healthcare.
For citizens who are in the process of applying for residency in an EU country, they are also advised to take out private health insurance, which is currently a requirement in Spain.
Will EHIC be valid after Brexit?
Negotiations between the EU and the UK are still ongoing. Until an agreement is reached, citizens are advised to follow the instructions set out in case of a no-deal Brexit. The guidance has been made available to ensure that travellers are prepared for any overseas healthcare requirements.
There is no guarantee that UK citizens will be able to access overseas healthcare similar to EHIC after Brexit. Even if a deal is in place, it may be a benefit that UK citizens lose. As a result, this could lead to an emergency situation for millions of travellers and citizens who live abroad who need access to healthcare.