In the hours after the Brexit referendum in June 2016, the scene in which a young woman interviewed by British public television confessed to regretting having voted in favor of the United Kingdom's exit from the EU went viral. Seeing that she had won the 'Leave' option, the country's exit from the European Union, she sought a kind of rectification.
But the fact is that there was no rectification possible and that, almost 5 years after all that, we are still witnessing the real repercussions that this decision of the United Kingdom to separate its destinies from those of its neighbors on the continent will bring.
See: Brexit: What will the life of Europeans and British be like from now on?
And one of the many changes that this will entail, perhaps one of the most striking at the moment in the daily life of European and British citizens, is in the medical field: especially, in everything related to British citizens residing or spending time on vacation in Europe and, more specifically, in Spain. Because, as soon as their EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) runs out, they will be obliged to apply for a new card in order not to be left without medical coverage in Europe. The new card is called GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) and will be essential from now on.
Although under a new agreement between the EU and the UK, the GHIC will offer equivalent health protection to the EHIC when British citizens are on vacation, studying, or traveling on business in Europe —where emergency treatment will thus be included, as well as treatment needed for a pre-existing condition —the change poses a small additional hurdle for Britons traveling to the Old Continent.
UK students planning to study in an EU country will not be able to use the online application. They will need to send their application by post, along with a letter from their UK university, to apply for a time-limited GHIC for the duration of their course.
In any case, the new GHIC is free of charge and can be obtained online. However, interested parties should apply at least two weeks before they plan to travel to ensure that their card arrives on time.
See: Brexit: what happens now with health cards?
Vacation medical care
According to statements made by the British Minister of Health, Edward Argar, "our agreement with the EU guarantees the right of our citizens to access the necessary healthcare on their vacations and travel to EU countries will continue; the GHIC is a key element of the UK's future relationship with the EU and will provide certainty and security to all UK residents".
In any case, and despite the minister's statements, the UK government also advises any UK citizen traveling abroad, whether to the EU or anywhere else in the world, to take out comprehensive travel insurance. The GHIC —like the EHIC— does not cover any private medical assistance, such as mountain rescue from ski resorts or flying back to the UK.
On the other hand, EHICs from EU member states will continue to be accepted by the NHS. Thus, EU citizens have no need to get a new card to travel to the UK.
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