Overview of UK Global Health Insurance Card

The UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) is a free card that allows UK residents to access necessary medical care when traveling in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. It replaces the previous European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The GHIC covers emergency and medically necessary healthcare, including hospital treatment, doctor’s appointments, and prescription medications.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for a GHIC, you must be a UK resident and hold a valid UK passport. You can apply for a GHIC online or by mail. The application process is straightforward and takes a few minutes to complete.

Coverage and Limitations of the GHIC

The Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) provides coverage for necessary medical expenses incurred during temporary stays in European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland. It covers a wide range of healthcare services, including:

  • Emergency medical treatment
  • Hospital stays
  • Doctor’s consultations
  • Prescribed medications
  • Ambulance services

However, it’s important to note that the GHIC does have some exclusions and limitations:


  • Pre-existing medical conditions
  • Elective or cosmetic procedures
  • Long-term or ongoing care
  • Dental treatment (except for emergency pain relief)
  • Private healthcare


  • The GHIC is only valid for temporary stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period.
  • It does not cover repatriation costs.
  • It does not guarantee free healthcare. You may still be required to pay for some services, such as doctor’s fees or prescription medications.

The GHIC’s geographical scope of coverage includes all EEA countries and Switzerland. It is not valid in other countries, such as the United States or Canada.

Comparison with Other Health Insurance Options

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The GHIC offers a limited range of coverage compared to private health insurance plans available in the UK. While the GHIC provides essential healthcare during temporary stays in the EU, it does not cover private healthcare services, repatriation costs, or long-term care.

Private health insurance plans offer a more comprehensive range of coverage, including access to private hospitals, specialists, and treatments. They also typically cover repatriation costs and long-term care. However, private health insurance plans can be more expensive than the GHIC.

Choosing the Most Suitable Health Insurance Plan

The best health insurance plan for you will depend on your individual needs and circumstances. If you are only planning on traveling to the EU for a short period of time, the GHIC may be sufficient. However, if you are planning on staying in the EU for an extended period of time or if you want more comprehensive coverage, a private health insurance plan may be a better option.

Practical Considerations for Using the GHIC

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Obtaining the GHIC is straightforward. You can apply online through the NHS website or by post. The application process is free, and you will typically receive your card within a few weeks.

When traveling abroad, carry your GHIC with you at all times. If you need medical treatment, present your card to the healthcare provider. They will then verify your coverage and provide you with the necessary care.

To make a claim under the GHIC, you will need to contact the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team. You can do this by phone, email, or post. The team will guide you through the claims process and help you obtain reimbursement for your medical expenses.

There are a few potential challenges or issues that may arise when using the GHIC. One challenge is that the GHIC does not cover all medical expenses. For example, it does not cover the cost of private healthcare, cosmetic surgery, or dental treatment. Another challenge is that the GHIC may not be accepted by all healthcare providers in all countries. It is essential to check with your healthcare provider before receiving treatment to ensure they accept the GHIC.

Tips for Using the GHIC

Here are a few tips for using the GHIC:

– Carry your GHIC with you at all times when traveling abroad.
– Present your GHIC to the healthcare provider when seeking medical treatment.
– Keep receipts for all medical expenses incurred.
– Contact the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team to make a claim.
– Be aware of the limitations of the GHIC coverage.
– Check with your healthcare provider before receiving treatment to ensure they accept the GHIC.

Alternatives to the GHIC

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For UK residents planning to travel abroad for an extended period or seeking more comprehensive coverage, the GHIC may not suffice. In such cases, exploring alternative health insurance options is advisable.

Various private health insurance providers offer travel insurance policies tailored to international travelers. These policies typically provide broader coverage than the GHIC, including:

Coverage and Limitations of Alternatives

  • Emergency medical expenses, including hospitalization and surgery
  • Medical evacuation and repatriation
  • Trip cancellation and interruption
  • Lost luggage and personal belongings

However, these policies also come with limitations, such as:

  • Premiums can be higher than the GHIC
  • Coverage may vary depending on the policy and provider
  • Pre-existing medical conditions may not be covered

Choosing the Most Appropriate Alternative

The most appropriate alternative to the GHIC depends on individual travel plans and needs. Consider the following factors:

  • Duration of stay: For short trips, the GHIC may be sufficient. For longer stays, private insurance with more comprehensive coverage is recommended.
  • Destination: Coverage needs vary depending on the destination country’s healthcare system and accessibility.
  • Medical history: Individuals with pre-existing conditions should ensure their policy covers such conditions.
  • Budget: Premiums for private insurance can vary significantly. Compare costs and coverage options before making a decision.

Impact of Brexit on the GHIC

The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU) on January 31, 2020, has had a significant impact on the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). Previously, UK residents could use the GHIC to access necessary medical treatment in EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, similar to how they would in the UK.

After Brexit, the GHIC remains valid for use in these countries. However, there are some changes and adjustments to be aware of.

Eligibility and Coverage

To be eligible for a GHIC, you must be a UK resident who is:

  • Covered by the NHS
  • A state pensioner
  • Receiving certain benefits, such as Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance

The GHIC covers medically necessary treatment, including:

  • Emergency care
  • Treatment for pre-existing conditions
  • Routine care, such as check-ups and vaccinations

It is important to note that the GHIC does not cover private healthcare or repatriation costs. If you require additional coverage, you may want to consider purchasing private health insurance.

Guidance for UK Residents Traveling to EU Countries After Brexit

If you are a UK resident traveling to an EU country after Brexit, it is essential to:

  • Apply for a GHIC if you do not already have one.
  • Carry your GHIC with you when you travel.
  • Present your GHIC to healthcare providers when seeking medical treatment.
  • Be aware that you may be charged for treatment if you do not have a valid GHIC.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that you have access to necessary medical treatment while traveling in EU countries after Brexit.


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