I applied to renew my EHIC in January this year but still haven’t received it.
Is there any way to chase up where in the process my application is? Should I apply for a GHIC?
Jenny says: This summer will see millions of Britons jetting off to Europe for the first time since the pandemic, so it’s perhaps no surprise that it’s taking longer than usual to process EHIC and GHIC applications amid high demand.
EHICs – or European health insurance cards – can be used throughout the EU as well as Switzerland and entitle you to treatment in state hospitals at the same price as the residents of the country you’re visiting.
They’re being phased out following Brexit, which means that you can continue to use your EHIC until it expires, but after that you’ll need to apply for a GHIC (Global health insurance card).
Despite having ‘global’ in its name, the GHIC gives the same cover as an existing UK EHIC and can only be used in the EU and in Switzerland (though it may extend to more countries in future).
It covers ‘necessary healthcare’ – in other words, healthcare that can’t wait until you’re back in the UK, such as visits to A&E and treatment for a pre-existing condition.
EHICs are still being issued and renewed in some cases, but only to certain groups of people.
These include EU nationals and citizens of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein who have legally resided in the UK since before 1 January 2021, and some British state pensioners who started living in one of these countries before 1 January 2021. New UK EHICs extend cover to Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
EHICs and GHICs are free, and anyone else who needs to apply for a GHIC should do so directly on the NHS website (nhs.uk/ghic). Be careful not to fall foul of copycat sites that charge a fee: last year Which? found that three of six of the top search results on Google were firms charging up to £30 for the card.
As part of the application process you’ll be told which card you’re entitled to – so it’s likely that when you tried to renew your EHIC you did in fact apply for a GHIC. It usually takes about 10 working days to get your card, but the government says current waiting times are around double that.
You’ve been waiting a lot longer, so it’s worth contacting the GHIC helpline on 0300 330 1350 to see if you can find out what’s happening.
If you haven’t managed to get your new card before you go away, don’t panic. If you end up needing medical treatment while you’re abroad, you can apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) to give you the same level of cover. To arrange this you’ll need to call the NHS Overseas Healthcare Services on +44 191 218 1999.
Remember that an EHIC or GHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance. They won’t cover treatment at a private hospital or clinic, or repatriation to the UK. Neither will they pay out if you have any other problems while you’re away, such as your luggage going missing.
Not all travel insurance is created equal though. For example, Which?’s latest analysis of 199 policies found that four in 10 do not cover you for strikes by airport or airline staff. That’s why it’s important to check the small print and make sure you understand what you can and can’t claim for.
One of the best features of travel insurance is that you can often recoup the cost of the holiday if you have to cancel (with good reason) before you go, so it’s sensible to arrange cover as soon as you’ve booked your trip.
Jenny Ross is editor of ‘Which? Money’. To have your question featured on this page, email [email protected]