GHIC: your at a glance guide

Find out more about the Global Health Insurance Card and how it could help if you need medical treatment while you’re visiting Europe.

Find out more about the Global Health Insurance Card and how it could help if you need medical treatment while you’re visiting Europe.

Rachel Lacey
Insurance and money expert
7
minute read
Do you know someone who could benefit from this article?
Last Updated 27 JANUARY 2023

What is a GHIC?

The Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) is a free card that gives you access to state-provided medical treatment when you’re travelling in Europe.

It replaces the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which gave EU residents access to state-provided healthcare in other EU countries.

Treatment will either be free or charged at the same rate as nationals, depending on the country you’re visiting.

The UK is no longer issuing EHICs, except in some limited circumstances, now that the Brexit transition period is over.

What does a GHIC cover?

A GHIC can be used to access medically necessary healthcare while you’re staying in the EU.

Medically necessary means that you couldn’t be reasonably expected to wait until you return to the UK for treatment.

This could include:

  • Emergency treatment and visits to A&E
  • Treatment for pre-existing and long-term medical conditions
  • Pre-existing conditions that need monitoring
  • Routine maternity care, as long as you’re not going abroad to give birth
  • Oxygen therapy and kidney dialysis.

What doesn’t a GHIC cover?

Just like the EHIC, a GHIC card isn’t a replacement for travel insurance. For example, it won’t cover:

  • Any costs you might incur for treatment – bear in mind some countries may charge for services that are free under the NHS
  • Private medical treatment – you’ll only get treatment in state-funded hospitals
  • Repatriation if you need to be flown back to the UK
  • Non-healthcare-related mishaps like holiday cancellation, lost baggage or damage to your possessions.

Did you know?

Around two-thirds of UK travellers don’t have a valid EHIC or GHIC when they visit Europe. More alarmingly, according to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), almost two-fifths of British holidaymakers don’t have travel insurance either. This means that millions of Brits are putting themselves at risk every year by travelling around Europe without any kind of protection at all.

Is a GHIC the same as an EHIC?

Pretty much. Although it’s called the Global Health Insurance Card, it’s only valid in Europe.

The main difference is that you can only use the GHIC in EU countries. Unlike the old EHIC, it won’t cover you in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland. If you still have a UK-issued EHIC, you can no longer use it in these four countries unless you were already on a visit there before 1 January 2021.

Do I need a GHIC if I have a valid EHIC?

You don’t need to switch to a GHIC straightaway and can carry on using a valid EHIC card until it expires. Once that happens, you can get a new GHIC free from the NHS website.

How do I check when my EHIC expires?

The expiry date will be printed on the bottom right-hand corner of your EHIC card.

Can I still apply for an EHIC?

The UK is only issuing EHICs for very limited groups of people, including:

  • UK students studying in the EU who’ve been there since before 1 January 2021
  • EU nationals living in the UK since before 1 January 2021
  • Some dual UK/EU nationals.

Who needs a GHIC?

If you’re a UK resident and you want to be able to access state-provided healthcare when you’re visiting the EU, you’ll need a GHIC.

Even if you have travel insurance, it’s still a good idea to have a GHIC. In fact, some travel insurance providers may insist you have a GHIC. There could also be cases where a GHIC would cover you but your insurance wouldn’t, for example, if you had an alcohol-fuelled accident.

UK residents who aren’t British or Irish nationals will have to provide evidence that they’re eligible for the GHIC. For details of what you need to do, see the NHS website.

Can I still use my EHIC if I am not a UK national living in the UK?

EHICs are still being issued by EU countries, so if you’re living in an EU country and have an EU-issued EHIC, you can use it. EU residents can use the EHIC to access healthcare when they visit the UK.

How do I get a GHIC?

You can apply for a GHIC free of charge from the NHS website.

To make sure your GHIC arrives on time, apply for it at least two weeks before your trip.

Be wary of any website that charges you to apply for a GHIC.

How do I use a GHIC?

You’ll need to show your card before you receive healthcare, so when you travel to Europe from the UK, it makes sense to keep it with you at all times in case of an emergency.

As it’s just the size of a credit card, it’s easy to slot into your wallet or purse.

How long does a GHIC last?

The GHIC runs for five years, just like the EHIC.

Where can I use a GHIC?

The GHIC is valid in the 27 EU countries plus Switzerland. The EU includes the following countries:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Croatia
  • Republic of Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden.

Could my GHIC be refused?

The GHIC only covers state-provided healthcare, so you won’t be able to use it for treatment in private hospitals or clinics.

It should be accepted for state-provided treatment, however there have been some reports of EHICs being refused in the past. If this happens and you have to pay for treatment, make sure you get proof that you offered it and you may be able to be reimbursed by the NHS.

Will I have to pay upfront when using my GHIC?

Possibly – it depends on the country you’re visiting. In some countries, you’ll be expected to pay for the treatment upfront then apply for reimbursement. If this happens, make sure you keep all the paperwork. In others, treatment won’t be free and you’ll need to make a non-refundable contribution to your care.

What happens if I don't have my GHIC with me?

Don’t panic if you find yourself in need of treatment but don’t have your card on you.

You can apply for a provisional replacement certificate (PRC) by calling the NHS on: 0044 191 218 1999 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm UK time).

You’ll need to provide your National Insurance number and the name, email address and country of the clinic or hospital you’re being treated in. The PRC will be emailed there.

Will a GHIC cover me for a pre-existing medical condition?

That depends. The GHIC will only cover you for what’s called ‘necessary healthcare’ while you’re away – it doesn’t matter whether it’s a new problem or a pre-existing one. This means if you need treatment for a pre-existing condition that can’t wait until you get home, you should be covered. 

Examples of eventualities it could cover include kidney dialysis, cancer treatment and routine maternity care. But the GHIC won’t cover you if you’ve gone abroad specifically to get treatment, and it doesn’t guarantee you the same treatment as you’d get at home.

Can I use a GHIC if I’m pregnant?

You can use the GHIC to access routine maternity care that can’t wait until you get home. But it won’t cover you if you’ve gone abroad specifically to give birth.

 

Will a GHIC cover COVID-19?

GHICs cover necessary healthcare while you’re away. So if you became ill with COVID-19 and need medical treatment, it should cover you.

Does my child need a GHIC?

Yes. All family members need their own GHIC. Parents will need to apply for a GHIC on behalf of children under the age of 16.

Do I need travel insurance if I have a GHIC?

Like the EHIC, the GHIC isn’t a substitute for travel insurance. It only covers you for state-provided healthcare, not for private treatment or repatriation if you want to come back to the UK for treatment.

It also doesn’t cover non-healthcare-related mishaps like lost luggage or your belongings getting stolen. So if you’re looking for travel insurance for your European trip, compare with us and find the right deal.

Frequently asked questions

Is the E111 the same as EHIC?

Yes, the European Health Insurance Card was previously the E111 form.

How do I renew my EHIC card?

When your EHIC card expires, you can apply for a GHIC using the NHS online service. You’ll need your National Insurance number to do this. Depending on your circumstances, you might also need to give your NHS number, so make sure you have it to hand just in case.

You can apply for a new card up to six months before your current one expires.

Don’t use any website that charges you to apply for a GHIC.

Do I need a GHIC if I already have travel insurance?

Yes, it’s best to have both. For example, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) reported an incident in France, where the GHIC covered 80% of the cost of treating injuries from a fall. The remaining 20% – £16,000 – was paid by the injured party’s medical travel insurance.

Some travel insurance providers will also require you to have a GHIC otherwise you cover might not be valid.

Can I use a GHIC outside of Europe?

No. Despite the new card being called ‘global’, it’s only valid in EU countries, not further afield.

Looking for a quote?

Get a new travel insurance quote in minutes and you could start saving.

Get a quote
Compare travel insurance Get a quote