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BREXIT

EHIC or GHIC: What’s the latest on European health insurance cards for Britons?

In the end Britain's Brexit deal with the EU did contain details on health cover for UK visitors to Europe. Here's what Britons both visiting and living in the EU need to know about future health insurance cards.

EHIC or GHIC: What's the latest on European health insurance cards for Britons?
AFP

Buried away deep in the Christmas Eve Brexit deal was details on the provision of reciprocal health care for Brits visiting the EU and EU citizens in the UK.

Basically the deal says that the UK and European Union will continue to offer “benefits in kind” to a citizen from the other side if those benefits “become necessary on medical grounds during their stay”.

This means that Britons visiting EU 27 countries (but NOT Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) will be entitled to medical care on the same basis as local people.

So what does this mean for EHIC cards?

European Health Insurance cards, which have been around since 2004, have been the easiest way to prove this entitlement.

The UK government has said UK residents with a current EHIC card can use it until the date expires.

But the Brexit deal also contains mention of a new UK-specific health insurance card, which will be introduced at some point in the future.

This appears to have been already been given an official name: The Global Health Insurance cards or GHIC.

Those in Britain can apply online now  for a UK Global Health Insurance Card (Ghic) on the NHS portal previously used for EHIC applications.

The card is free so you do not need to use third-party sites, which may charge a fee.

Those with valid EHIC cards don't need to apply.

What about for Britons living in the EU?

Certain categories of people living in the EU (pensioners and students) can continue to use EHIC cards although they will likely have to apply for a new one.

The new one will be different from the old EHIC or new GHIC because they will show that the holder is covered by the “Citizens' Rights Agreement” (CRA).

UK health authorities have said previously that old EHIC cards were only valid until December 31st 2020 but it's not clear if there is now leeway given that old EHIC cards are now still valid until expiry date. Nevertheless pensioners living in the EU are advised to apply for a new one.

Under the terms of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement British pensioners who are S1 holders and students can continue to use their UK-issued EHIC card for basic health cover when travelling to another EU country as well as Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Pensioners and students can also use the cards when returning to the UK but they are asked to apply for a new card 

Those who can apply for a new EHIC card are:

  • a UK State Pensioner or receiving some other exportable benefits, and you have a registered S1 form or E121
  • a frontier worker (someone who works in one state and lives in another) and you've been one since before 1 January 2021, for as long as you continue to be a frontier worker in the host state, and you’re eligible for an S1 form or E106
  • a worker posted to work in another EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland by your UK employer, and you've been there since before 1 January 2021, where the country has agreed to let the posting continue
  • an eligible family member or dependant of one of the above
  • a UK student studying in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, and you've been there since before 1 January 2021

British students in the EU will be covered by their new EHIC until the end of the studies abroad and only in the country they are studying. They are also advised to have travel insurance.

Remember that an EHIC card does not cover all health costs in EU countries and is not an alternative to travel insurance. It does not cover mountain rescue or cruises, for example, and will not cover the cost of getting you home in an emergency.

“The EHIC covers medically necessary state-provided healthcare at a reduced cost or, in many cases, free of charge, until your planned return home,” the NHS website says.

In some countries you may be expected to pay your bill upfront and then claim a refund afterwards.

For more info CLICK HERE.

Other Britons living in the EU?

Anyone with a European Health Insurance card issued by their EU country of residence (which in France is known as a Carte europeenne assurance maladie or CEAM) can still use it for health cover when visiting other EU, EEA countries or Switzerland.

The UK government has told The Local that Britons living in the EU (who are not pensioners) before the end of the transition period that their locally issued EHIC card will be valid for any treatment they need while visiting the UK.

The UK government's site says: “If you live in the EU or move there before the end of 2020, your rights to access healthcare in your host country will stay the same from January 1st 2021 for as long as you remain resident.

This means you'll: 

  • continue to get state healthcare in your host country on the same basis as other residents  
  • still be entitled to a European EHIC for travel, including visits to the UK 

 

People who already have a European card issued by their host country do not need to renew it.

 

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BREXIT

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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