Holidays: Expert travel insurance warning as GHIC launched – how to get new health card

Holidays: Simon Calder gives 2021 travel advice

Holidays, one hopes, will return this year when the vaccine is further rolled out and the UK staggers out of national lockdown. Travel will be slightly different after Brexit though, with one major change coming into force last night. The Global Health Insurance Card or GHIC was launched on Monday.

Under the new, post-Brexit agreement, the GHIC ensures the rights of UK residents to access emergency and medically necessary care when travelling in the EU will continue.

The card will gradually replace existing European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC).

The latter is valid as long as they are in date and people can continue to use these when travelling to the EU.

The public only needs to apply for their new GHIC when their current EHIC expires.

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However, a travel insurance expert has issued a warning as the GHIC is opened up to Britons.

Tommy Lloyd, MD of Medical Travel Compared, cautioned travellers not to risk travelling with just the GHIC alone.

As with the EHIC, travel insurance is still hugely important and will offer further protection.

“Following the UK officially leaving the European Union on January 1, 2021, your EHIC or GHIC will be valid if you’re travelling to an EU country, however it is still essential to have travel insurance to cover your healthcare while you’re away,” Lloyd said.

“EHIC and GHIC are not alternatives to travel insurance, and while they cover some free healthcare support in certain countries, not all medical treatment such as private medical healthcare or costs such as being flown back to the UK is included.”

Lloyd continued: “Travel insurance is all about protecting you and your booked travel arrangements, both before you depart and for the duration of your trip and it’s important to purchase travel insurance to ensure you don’t receive any hidden bills should you require medical attention whilst abroad.

“There are various reasons that can cause disruptions to your trip and having the right travel insurance policy adds a layer of protection against them.”

How to get the GHIC

The new GHIC card is free to obtain from the official GHIC website.

However, some people need to apply by post, including UK students going to the EU and Non-British and non-Irish nationals.

All UK residents are eligible to apply for a GHIC which will be valid and recognised in the EU.

“You’ll need to provide the necessary evidence when applying,” the NHS explained.

It’s important to apply for the GHIC in time for your holidays.

“People should apply at least two weeks before they plan to travel to ensure their card arrives on time,” warned the Department of Health and Social Care.

Your card will normally arrive within 10 days.

The government also cautioned against scam sites.

“GHIC is free via the official website. Any sites which include a charging fee are in no way affiliated with the official NHSBSA GHIC service,” the authority said.

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