IF the UK leaves the EU without a deal on January 31, there will be a number of changes that will apply to Brit travellers visiting Europe.
One of these is the validity of the European Health Insurance Card or EHIC.
Before you travel, make sure you know what the latest advice is.
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.
Depending on the country, the healthcare offered to Brits may differ – the NHS has offered detailed advice for each EU country.
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.
You can apply for a card online for free and some travel insurance policies will require you to have the card with you when travelling to Europe.
According to MoneySavingExpert.com, more than half of people in the UK don’t have an EHIC and in 2018, almost three million expired.
Can I use my EHIC after Brexit?
The EHIC is still valid until January 31.
It said: “If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, your EHIC might not be valid anymore. Buy travel insurance that comes with healthcare cover before you travel.”
The government has asked all 31 countries to keep the EHIC in place until December 31, 2020, no matter what the outcome of Brexit.
But so far only 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 before they 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research from Admiral travel insurance has revealed how medical costs could increase by up to 900 per cent if EHIC is no longer valid in the event of a No Deal Brexit.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.
It adds to the list of things to consider if you’re planning a getaway 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 or get an 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 will 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 are not.
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