Everything you need to know about GHIC offering free healthcare in Europe

People who travel internationally, especially in the EU are probably familiar with the EHIC.

The European Health Insurance Card is a free card that allows the holder to receive medical treatment in another member state free or at a reduced cost, especially if that treatment becomes necessary during their visit.

However, now British holidaymakers are now being made aware that these old EHIC cards are being phased out and are now being replaced by the GHIC, which is the Global Health Insurance Card.

For travellers, applying for this card can save them a fortune in healthcare outside the UK.

Both of these cards essentially do the same thing. If you do still have a valid EHIC, you can still use it for travel. However, you will only have the option of applying for a GHIC in the future.

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They provide you free or discounted health care when travelling out of the UK and while they don’t act as insurance, they can save travellers a lot of money in healthcare bills, should you need it.

Our sister website 2Chill has looked at exactly how they work, what they entitle you to, and how to get your hands on one.

What do the EHIC and GHIC do?

The cards may have different names but they act in much the same way.

They are free, last for five years, and entitle those with one to cheaper medical care in EU member state countries.

If you need medical care in Europe and you have one of these cards, you will only pay what a local person who lives in the country would pay.

This includes state-run hospitals and doctors and it means if a local would be able to get free treatment, you will too.

However, if they would usually have to pay for this, you will be charged the same rate they would be. This could still be far less than going to a private medical centre.

Residents of EU countries are also able to benefit from free NHS treatment if they are visiting the UK and have one of the cards.

However, you can’t use it if you are specifically travelling abroad for a medical reason, such as an operation.

How to apply for a card


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You can apply for one of the free cards via the Government website.

Make sure you apply at least two weeks before you are due to travel, so your card has time to arrive.

You will never have to pay for this card, although lots of websites may offer to apply for you, for a fee.

Avoid these and only go through the genuine website to make sure you don’t have to pay and you’re getting the right card.

You need to be over 16 to apply for a card, although every member needs their own, so a parent or guardian can apply for children.

Is the card a replacement for insurance?

Although it’s called a health insurance card, the card in no way replaces travel insurance.

All it does is lower the cost you pay for medical care in EU countries.

With travel insurance you are usually covered for medical costs of at least £1million among other things, including repatriation back to the UK if you need it.

With travel insurance you’ll also be covered if your holiday company goes bust or for things like theft, damage, or loss of any of your belongings.

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