British travellers will still enjoy free emergency healthcare across Europe after Brexit and the end of the transition period at midnight on December 31.
The current 27 million people holding a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued by the National Health Service can continue to use it until it expires and during 2021, Britain will begin to introduce a replacement – the UK Global Health Insurance Card.
The card system allows access to state-provided medical treatment should the holder fall ill or have an accident in the EU member states, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.
And the replacement will be similar to the EHIC for those entitled to the card; it will cover chronic or existing illnesses, routine maternity and emergency care – specialised treatment such as cancer care or dialysis will continue to be covered but subject to ‘prior agreement’ to ensure it is available.
The current EHIC lasts up to five years – some holders will continue to use their existing card until 2025.
The British government has yet to publish details of how to apply for the new health card or when it will become available.
However, the Department of Health source said full details of the UK Global Health Insurance Card would ‘be set out in due course’ – adding: “The government always advises that anyone travelling overseas, whether in the EU or elsewhere in the world, should take out comprehensive travel insurance and this remains our advice.”
British expats who have the Spanish equivalent of the EHIC – the Tarjeta Sanitaria Europa – will continue to have these issued to cover travel across Europe.