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Will the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) be valid after Brexit?

Until now, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) card has provided the right to free or partially free emergency healthcare for its holders while staying in other EU countries. With Brexit around the corner, many UK and EU citizens are confused as to whether the EHIC card will still be valid after March 29th. In today’s article, Pacific Prime, a leading international insurance broker, will try to answer the question of whether the EHIC card will be valid after Brexit.

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What is the EHIC?

The EHIC, or European Health Insurance Card, is a document addressed to all insured citizens of European Union countries, including Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. It allows cardholders to receive medical treatment in another member state for free, or at a reduced cost, be it for emergency treatment, or related to a pre-existing condition. The EHIC card is issued at no cost in your country of residence within the EEA.

The purpose of the  EHIC card

The purpose of the EHIC card is to allow people to continue their stay in a foreign country without having to return home for medical care. Depending on the country you are visiting and its healthcare system, different services may be payable, free, or partially payable.

The EHIC card does not automatically provide free care, but only entitles you to recover some of the costs incurred. After returning to your home country, you should submit a report with the invoices and completed application for reimbursement to the relevant office.

EHIC card exclusions

Some benefits are not covered by the EHIC card, e.g. traveling abroad to give birth to a child, or dental treatments, as those are not deemed as medically necessary, and as such, any person traveling to another EU country for the express purpose of obtaining medical treatment will not be covered under the EHIC scheme.

It’s also imperative to note here that the EHIC is not valid in the private healthcare sector, hence those choosing or ending up getting medical care in private institutions will not be able to claim the costs back at home or receive it for free.

Can EHIC be treated as travel insurance?

The EHIC card does not replace travel insurance, as it does not cover certain cases such as flight delays or trip cancellation. However, it can sometimes reduce its cost, because some of the services offered by the insurer may be included in what’s covered in the EHIC card.

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Will the EHIC card be valid after Brexit?

The UK, as part of the EU, has been participating in the EHIC scheme since 2004, thus allowing UK residents to apply for and use the card in the other European countries (and vice versa for other EU citizens being able to use NHS services in the UK).

As per our current state of knowledge, it is still unclear whether EHIC card holders will be able to use the EHIC after the 29th of March 2019. As per the official statement on the NHS website, the EHIC card will be valid until 29th of March, and after that date, the NHS recommends travelers to obtain private travel insurance to ensure their healthcare is covered abroad.

Beyond that, there are further speculations on whether the EHIC card will still be valid or not; this will all depend on the status of the Brexit deal.

No deal Brexit

No deal Brexit will assumably result in the cease of the EHIC partnership between the UK and the rest of the European Union countries, plus Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Iceland, and Norway. All EU citizens planning to travel to the UK would, therefore, have to obtain travel insurance and vice versa for British people travelling to EU countries.

Brexit transition period

Assuming that Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement gets ratified by both the UK and the EU before Brexit day, both the EU and UK citizens can “enjoy” an almost two-year-long transition period between 29 March 2019 and 31 December 2020. In this transition period, the EU and the UK would have more time for negotiations, and hopefully, develop a relationship that’s more friendly to their respective citizens.

If the transition comes into effect, all EU law would continue to apply in the UK, guaranteeing both the EU and UK citizens the same rights, also when it comes to using the EHIC card.

What we know so far is that the UK is keen on keeping the EHIC card system, or create a similar one post-Brexit with the EU, as it did with Australia and New Zealand – where citizens can receive free emergency treatment.   

The bottom line

With the Brexit date coming closer and closer, it’s best for all interested to closely follow either the official NHS website for updates, or your country’s social security webpages for an official stance on that matter.  

In the meantime, for all those who are planning to travel around Europe, Pacific Prime recommends obtaining a proper travel policy, or international health insurance for far superior, comprehensive coverage. This is because where healthcare benefits are concerned, travel policies are typically limited to only medical emergencies.

International private health insurance (IPMI) plans have the potential to cover pre-existing conditions, something that was previously a “standard” for EHIC cardholders, and something that is virtually always excluded in travel insurance plans. To find out more about your medical insurance options post-Brexit, contact Pacific Prime’s experienced team of insurance advisors today. We’ll assist you with choosing and comparing different insurance plans, network providers, insurers, and also provide you with free quotes – all at no extra cost vs going direct to the insurer.

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