If you’re planning on taking a trip to Europe in the coming weeks, or you have a summer holiday booked, you might be thinking about whether you need to make any preparations in terms of healthcare. At the moment, UK travellers are covered by the European Health Insurance Card, but will this still be valid after Brexit, and how can UK tourists protect themselves abroad?
What will happen to healthcare post-Brexit: will the EHIC still be valid?
The UK has issued a total of 27 million EHIC cards. These cards enable UK travellers to access state-funded healthcare services when travelling in the EU or in Iceland, Norway, Switzerland or Liechtenstein. If you have an accident, you fall ill, or you need treatment for pre-existing medical conditions in one of these nations, you’re entitled to receive treatment provided by the state’s healthcare system in the same way as a resident of that country. Until the UK leaves the EU, the EHIC will continue to be valid. What happens next depends on how the UK leaves.
- No deal: If there is a no deal Brexit, the EHIC will no longer be valid. The government has said that it will be seeking to make arrangements for UK nationals travelling in the EU in the future, but at the moment, there is no clear plan in place to provide protection in the event of a no deal Brexit.
- Deal: if there is a Brexit deal, this means that the UK will enter into a transition period, which is due to last until the 31st December 2020. During this period, EU laws will continue to be relevant in the UK, and this means that you will be able to use your EHIC. It is not yet clear what will happen after the transition period, but ministers have stated that they would be keen to ensure that UK citizens have access to health services in the EU beyond Brexit.
Insurance for travelling in Europe
If there is a no deal Brexit, UK nationals planning to travel in Europe are advised to take out travel insurance in advance of their departure date. ERGO provides a number of cover levels depending on the value of cover you require and the types of activities you may be taking part in. Policies cover cancellations and delays, lost luggage, theft, and medical treatment. It’s often beneficial to invest in comprehensive cover to ensure you’re protected when you travel. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, and the EHIC becomes invalid, travellers are advised to take out insurance, just as they would if they were visiting a country in another part of the world. If you plan to try adventure sports, or you have pre-existing medical conditions, make sure your policy covers you before you travel.
How much will healthcare cost post-Brexit?
The cost of healthcare for UK citizens post-Brexit depends on the arrangements made by the UK government concerning how the UK leaves. If there is a deal, UK travellers will be able to use the EHIC until December 31st 2020, and state-funded healthcare services will be accessible. Beyond this, the situation is not clear, as the government has not yet negotiated the future of the EHIC or any alternatives, which could make affordable healthcare accessible to UK travellers after Brexit. If there is a no deal scenario, the cost of healthcare will depend on the fees charged by hospitals or health providers in the country in which you’re travelling. If you have insurance, you should be able to make a claim to cover all or part of the cost, but you’ll need to check the details of your policy.
What happens if you need medical treatment in Europe?
If you’re travelling for work or you’re on holiday in Europe, and you need medical treatment, you’ll be able to use your EHIC to access services until December 31st 2020 if the UK leaves with a deal. If Brexit is a no deal situation, you’ll need to contact your travel insurance provider and make a claim for the treatment you receive.
If you’re taking a break in Europe, keep an ear out for updates on Brexit. Even if there is a deal in place, and you can use your EHIC, it’s beneficial to have travel insurance, as it covers an array of potential problems, including lost luggage, delays, and cancellations.