Will the EHIC be valid after Brexit? Government publishes advice for holidaymakers

29 January 2019

Travellers may lose free access to EU healthcare if the government and EU fail to reach an agreement on continuity of access to care for British holidaymakers and expats.

Now, the government has published guidance for those concerned about losing access to free healthcare services in EU member states.

The government says travellers need to check the arrangements on a country-by-country basis in the event of no deal being agreed between the remaining 27 EU nations and the UK.

It also advises that travellers take out travel insurance to ensure they are protected in any event.

Currently the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives UK citizens access to state-provided healthcare  at reduced cost or free, depending on local arrangements, in member states of the European Economic Area.

EHIC holders are entitled to the same level of care as a local resident of the destination country.

This includes non-EU countries such as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

In some EEA countries patients have to pay what is a called a ‘co-payment’ which can often be a percentage of the total cost of care. The EHIC also covers pre-existing medical conditions

The government is clear however that the EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance as it will not cover private healthcare or costs such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, repatriation to the UK, or property loss through damage, loss or theft.

When booking travel insurance it is best to check for the best policy for you by using a price comparison website.

Other states in Europe that are not in the EEA will not accept the card either. This includes:

  • Andorra
  • The Channel Islands, including Guernsey, Alderney and Sark
  • The Isle of Man
  • Monaco
  • San Marino
  • The Vatican

For UK nationals resident in EEA states, the government is encouraging them to register for access to local healthcare instead of relying on the EHIC.

If someone is in the process of applying for residency, the government advice is to obtain separate private medical insurance.

The government is also warning that any UK nationals resident in EEA countries who use an ‘S1 certificate’ this could no longer be valid after 29 March if no deal is agreed.

In this case the government says again that individuals affected should check the arrangements between the UK and the country they are in.


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Obviously if we crash out without a deal then, unless we simultaneously join the EEA, we won't be able to use EHIC (unless and until a new reciprocal arrangement has been negotiated). Hopefully if we leave with some kind of deal, especially where we continue to pay into the EU, then this arrangement will still apply (no guarantee though given the no-hopers doing the negotiating).The problem with relying on travel insurance is that typically the policies require you to have and use your EHIC. Unless the travel insurers start making their position clear then we're all going to have to start reading the small print very carefully before choosing our policies!

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

It does sound like project fear. As stated, it applies to the EEA. Are we leaving the EEA?

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

No biggy really, Ehic cards havent been around as long as Travel Insurance.....just spend a bit more time getting good quailty insuranceI am more intrigued to see how much each country will charge to let you in

In reply to by OL b (not verified)

I totally disagree. For anyone who wants to travel for an extended period or who owns or visits a property owner, EHIC is essential. Here's why. Let's say you go to Spain for three months, either as a property owner or student. During that time you may wish to sail or scuba dive for a day or two. You will need insurance for the whole period for that activity which if you are over 50 or have an existing health issue is prohibitively expensive if possible at all. Holiday home owners who ski or take part in sport will effectively need to sell up. Try getting winter sports cover for 3 months if you are over 50. EHIC cover emergency care for your whole trip even if you are 50 and have a pre existing condition , which let's be honest many people do. EHIC means a home owner or travelling student can get patched up and go home when well enough to travel.

In reply to by OL b (not verified)

Travel insurance s limited to a certain period. For those of us living in Greece where you cannot get private health insurance over the age of 65 this would be an absolute nightmare.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Well done Look forward to updates as and when found out please

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I feel scared that in event of a no deal flights to EU destinations could be cancelled. I have booked a flight from London to Copenhagen which is due to happen on 6th April on SAS Airlines. It is to link up with a flight to Bangkok on Norwegian Air. I have bought travel insurance for that trip. My trip comes home from Stockholm to London. I have two children and this trip is to happen in the Easter School break.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

More Project Fear ???

In reply to by Rich (not verified)

I would have thought that voiding the EHIC - for which after all we pay/have paid indirectly via our taxes - could be deemed a breach of contract. Furthermore were this about to happen I would have expected some form of widespread announcement and notification. along with arrangements for replacement. Somebody I spoke to in the EHIC offices in Newcastle a few days back said that they were expecting the cards to remain valid after Brexit as before.

In reply to by Adrian Jacobs (not verified)

We're not in the EEA. We're in the EU. We'd have to apply to join the EEA and that will take time (although they have at least said they'd be happy for us to do so) which means that for a while the EHIC may well not be accepted (assuming a no deal exit).

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