Brexit has become an albatross on the neck of many European citizens chiefly the British themselves. Following the Brexit referendum on June 23, 2016, Europeans citizens are uncertain about their post-Brexit fate, in case they want to travel to the UK. Currently, several questions about the Brexit deal is begging for answers. If you are considering travelling to the UK, you may be asking whether your European Insurance Card (EHIC) would still be valid after Brexit. In this piece, I will explore what Brexit hold for EHIC holders.
What is the European Insurance Card (EHIC)
The European Insurance Card (EHIC) is a free card issued to European Union (EU) citizens and even non-EU citizens who are legally staying in Europe. The card, issued by the national health insurance providers in member states allows citizens of the 28 European Union countries including Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, and Liechtenstein, to access free healthcare during their temporary stay in any of the EU countries. So, you can get healthcare just as people insured in your visiting country. In some countries, even non-citizens who are legal residents are able to enjoy the benefits of EHIC. However, non-EU nationals cannot receive medical treatment in countries like Denmark, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Norway, using their EHIC.
EHIC does not cover people who purposely travel to other EU-states just for medical reasons. It also does not cover all types of illnesses. Also, take note that the EHIC cannot replace your travel insurance.
What Happens to Your EHIC after Brexit?
EHIC holders enjoy pre-medical care and emergency care in the UK, just like citizens of the country. The EHIC coverage is quite extensive in the UK and covers various kinds of treatments. But, this may change due to the Brexit. Now, many EU citizens are wondering whether their EHIC cards will still be valid in the UK after Brexit takes effect? Can EU-nationals still travel to the UK having in mind that they can receive treatment in case of an emergency? The answer to this question is dependent on several factors including whether the UK leaves the EU with or without a Brexit agreement.
What is the Brexit Deal/Agreement?
Following the 2016 Brexit referendum, the UK has been negotiating with the EU on the terms of their departure, which is termed as Brexit agreement.
The Brexit agreement covers areas including:
- The amount the UK has to pay the EU for the break to complete. It currently stands at £39 billion.
- Avoiding any form of a physical border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland when it becomes the boundary between the UK and the EU.
- What happens to UK citizens who are living in other EU countries, likewise what will happen to EU citizens living in the UK.
Why Has an Agreement between the UK and EU Taken Long?
The final Brexit agreement was set to take place on March 29, 2019. However, the UK has missed this deadline on two different occasions. On March 12, 2019, the MP’S voted against Prime Minister, Theresa May’s first deal. Hence, the UK faced exiting on April 12. However, Mrs. May reverted to the EU to seek an extension. The EU has since agreed on a new deadline of October 31. That notwithstanding, if Mrs. May can convince MP’s on a new deal the UK can leave before the deadline.
What Happens to the EHIC if there is no deal?
It is sad to know, but the truth is your EHIC may be rendered invalid after a no Brexit deal. As such, the UK government has already issued some guidelines on healthcare to British who would travel abroad after Brexit.
In the eventuality, that there is no Brexit deal, UK-nationals travelling to other EU countries, and Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland, and Switzerland must buy a travel insurance package for their health care needs. Meaning that they will now have to travel to EU countries the same way as they do when travelling to non-EU countries.
According to the UK government, it is “seeking agreements with countries on health care arrangements for UK nationals.” However, such an agreement has not been reached with any country yet.
What if there is a Brexit Agreement?
The UK will have a Brexit deal only if Mrs. May can get the UK Parliament to rectify her withdrawal agreement and the agreement it consented by the EU before the scheduled Brexit day. When this happens, it will trigger a transition period.
Per the agreement between the UK and the EU, there will be a post-Brexit transition period until December 31, 2020, if there is a Brexit agreement. The transition period is extendable to two years if necessary. Within this period, the UK and the EU will hold further negotiations on future partnerships. So until December 2020, all existing EU laws would be valid in the UK. As a result, your European Insurance Card will remain valid and you will continue to enjoy the rights and privileges of other EU-nationals.
But in the eventuality of a no deal Brexit, then there will be no transition period. Therefore, all EU laws will cease to work in the UK.
The UK Wish
The UK government wish that EU-UK nationals continue to receive health care beyond the transition period. On July 12, 2018, the UK government published a Brexit White Paper saying it wanted “UK and EU nationals to continue to be able to use the EHIC to receive health care should they need it while on holiday.”
For now, the UK has the reciprocal health insurance agreement with some non-EU and European Economic Area (non-EEA) countries like New Zealand, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Gilberta among others.
Under the agreement, you can receive healthcare free or at a reduced cost when you travel to these countries and you need emergency medical care. This agreement remains valid with or without a Brexit agreement. However, to be on the safer side, always buy travel insurance when leaving the UK after Brexit.