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1040 Abroad

Free Global Health Insurance Card Launched for UK Residents

Americans resident in the UK with a visa or residency permit are eligible to apply

Published on January 12, 2021

Medical Box

The Department for Health and Social Care has launched the UK’s new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which allows residents of the UK to access state-provided health care during temporary stays in the European Union.

GHIC will gradually replace the existing system for health care within the EU, known as the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Existing EHIC cards will remain valid as long as they’re in date.

The GHIC is available to all UK residents, irrespective of nationality. As the NHS website explains, “The UK operates a residency-based healthcare system, which means access is generally determined by residency and not by the past or present payment of National Insurance contributions or UK taxes.”

This means US Citizens with a UK visa or residency permit will be eligible for a GHIC. If you’re a non-British or non-Irish national, you will need to fill out the GHIC Application Form, and attach a copy of your UK visa of residence permit to the application, before posting it to:

Overseas Healthcare Services
NHS Business Services Authority
Bridge House
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 6SN

The GHIC will allow a holder to access what is described as “necessary healthcare” from state medical services when visiting the EU. These include: emergency treatments and A&E visits; treatment for a long-term or pre-existing medical condition; routine medical care for pre-existing conditions that need monitoring; routine maternity care, as long as you're not going abroad to give birth; and oxygen and kidney dialysis. Some of these services may need to be pre-arranged.

The NHS also notes that “Not all state healthcare is free in the EU and you may have to pay for services that you’d get for free on the NHS.”

There are other limitations to the GHIC, for example it doesn’t provide cover to holders visiting Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland.

The NHS also emphasises that the GHIC isn’t an alternative to travel insurance.

Commenting on the launch, Health Minister Edward Argar said that “Our deal with the EU ensures the right for our citizens to access necessary healthcare on their holidays and travels to countries in the EU will continue.”

Full information on the GHIC and its launch can be found at the following links; on Gov.uk and via the NHS website.

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