The United Kingdom will issue a new version of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to the individuals entitled to it under the EU-UK withdrawal agreement.
European Health Insurance Cards ensure access to public healthcare during temporary stays in EU countries, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland (the EFTA countries).
As a result of Brexit, EHICs issued in the UK will no longer be valid in the EU after 31 December 2020 (and vice versa), unless a new EU-UK deal will salvage them at the last minute.
However, the UK will continue issuing the card to the people protected under the EU-UK withdrawal agreement.
These people will keep their healthcare rights when they travel for study, work or leisure to EU and EFTA countries after the end of the Brexit transition period.
But they will have to request a new card, and the National Health Service Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) has just published details on how to do it.
Who is still entitled to a UK EHIC
Citizens from the European Union, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland who reside in the UK by the end of the Brexit transition period are still entitled to a UK EHIC.
Persons who receive a UK state pension or another exportable UK benefit and live in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland by the end of the year have the right to continue benefiting from state-provided healthcare where they live using the UK card.
Frontier workers, that is individuals who work in the UK but live in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, or workers posted temporarily to such countries before 31 December 2020 are entitled to a UK EHIC too.
In addition, the UK will issue the card to UK students, including citizens from non-EU countries who reside in Britain and have paid the UK’s Immigration Health Surcharge (or are exempt), who are attending schools and universities in EU or EFTA countries at the end of the Brexit transition.
The new card will specifically mention in the top right corner ‘CRA’, to show it is issued in compliance with the Citizens Right Agreement, the NHSBSA says.
Britons in the EU affiliated to the social security system of the country where they live by the end of the year will continue to be eligible for the EHIC issued by that country, so they won’t need a new one.
The British government has also clarified that if they return to the UK, they will be able to use the NHS like any other UK resident.
Although current cards can only be used up to 31 December 2020, anyone travelling in an EU or EFTA country over the New Year period can continue using them until they leave that country (and vice versa).
How to request the new card
People who are entitled to the new EHIC have to apply for it. The NHS launched an online portal to process the applications on 9 November 2020.
Access to the portal is staggered. The first groups invited to apply are pensioners or recipients of UK benefits who live in the EU and their family members, frontier workers and their family members, and students.
Citizens from EU countries, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland who live in the UK, and their dependants, will be invited to apply later in December, Europe Street understands.
The process has been described by applicants as “very quick and straightforward” with only basic details to fill in. The NHSBSA says applications will be processed within 5 working days and cards will be issued before 31 December 2020.
For any need arising while travelling in the EU without an EHIC, the NHSBSA can be contacted directly by calling +44 191 218 1999 Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm GMT.
To issue the new card to EU and EFTA nationals, NHS Digital is expected to “validate” their settled status, the scheme securing post-Brexit residence rights, the NHSBSA website says.
But Maike Bohn, co-founder of citizens’ rights group the3million, told Europe Street: “With less than 50 days to go, it is crucial that the UK government runs a strong communications campaign about who is entitled to the EHIC and what they need to do to get one, even if they haven’t successfully applied for settled or pre-settled status yet”. The deadline to apply for settled status is 30 June 2021.
Bohn noted clarifications are also needed “for dual nationals who are covered by the withdrawal agreement but can’t apply for settled status”. The same is true for Irish citizens, who are not required to apply for the EU settlement scheme. Europe Street has contacted the NHSBSA in this regard and the article will be updated when details will become available.
Kalba Meadows of British in Europe, a coalition of groups representing Brits in the EU who recently published a post-Brexit social security guide, said they were “pleased” that “a process has been put into place” for the recognition of their EHICs.
However, “we wait to hear what plans the NHSBSA intends to put in place to contact relevant EHIC holders directly to inform them of the need to apply for a replacement card,” she added.
“If this is not done, many will remain unaware that they need to take action if they intend to travel after 31 December and could inadvertently find themselves without a recognised EHIC,” Ms Meadows said.
How the EHIC works
EHICs are issued free of charge and are not a substitute to private insurance, EU and UK official websites remind. They cover only medical care that cannot wait returning home, ensuring that treatments are provided at the same conditions of patients of the country they are in (in some cases for free, in others for a fee).
The right to the EHIC is based on the affiliation to the social security system of a participating country, not to nationality.
Non-EU citizens who live and work in the EU are entitled to the EHIC issued by the country where they live, which can be used across the EU but not in Denmark, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, unless they are refugees or family members of an EU citizen.
The new UK EHIC provides the same entitlements of the current card and can be used immediately. It will remain valid for as long as the holder is “covered under the agreement”.
UK students attending schools or universities in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland must specify the country where they live on 31 December 2020 and the EHIC will only be valid there for the duration of their course.
If they move to another EU country after 31 December 2020, the card will not grant access to public healthcare. The UK government recommends to take out necessary insurance to cover the duration of the studies.
Negotiations for the future EU-UK relationship are still ongoing and it is not known yet whether a future agreement will include some form of cooperation on healthcare.
Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved
Photo by Arnaud Devillers © European Union 2017 – Source : EP.
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