cross the globe, healthcare continues to remain an issue affecting many nations. Efforts are constantly made to improve the healthcare facilities available to citizens, thereby improving their life expectancy. Current lifestyle trends have not been the most beneficial to humans and have resulted in the outbreak of a greater number of illnesses that need to be tackled for people to enjoy improved life spans.
The expense associated with medical care was often seen as the cause of a high death rate particularly in the presence of income inequality, however, countries across the globe have begun to work on providing citizens with healthcare facilities at affordable costs to improve their standard of living. The GHIC is one such effort.
What is the Global Health Insurance Card?
The Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) is a card issued to people who fall under UK’s social security system and enable them to receive healthcare services under a reciprocal healthcare agreement forged between the United Kingdom and European Union. Issued by the NHS Business Services Authority, this card ensures that recipients are not only entitled to the card but possessing the card, become entitled to the healthcare benefits being enjoyed by citizens of that particular country.
The Global Health Insurance Card was issued to people in January 2021. It came to replace the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which was earlier in circulation. Individuals already in possession of the EHIC can continue to use these until the expiry date, and once the card crosses the date, they will have to replace it with a GHIC. Individuals having dual nationality of EU states can lay claim on the UK-issued EHIC. The European Union’s EHIC is still accepted in the United Kingdom and people who still possess entitlement under previous associations and treaties with Switzerland and the European Economic Area are still provided with European Health Insurance Cards.
Since talks have still not established that reciprocal health agreements will take place between the UK and non-EU countries, the GHIC remains invalid in several places like Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. What is important to remember is that just like the European Health Insurance Card, the GHIC should be seen as an additional healthcare cover that can be used and should not be considered a replacement to travel insurance.
Much like all Government related documents, they have an expiration date, and the applicant should remember to renew them. They can choose to renew the EHIC and GHIC online,which makes the renewal process significantly easier. There are websites to allow users to renew their EHIC cards online, although they would be rebranded as the new GHIC card upon return.
How can you benefit from the GHIC?
Through this initiative, people possessing the card will be able to avail of medical assistance at a reduced cost, and in some places, even free of cost, as they will enjoy the same benefits provided to residents of the given country. All that an individual needs to do is present the card when they need treatment, and they will receive the benefits that come with it.
Treatment that is medically necessary during an individual’s stay abroad will be covered as long as it cannot be delayed until the person returns. Emergency treatments like those about accidents or treatment for long-term pre-existing conditions would also fall under this category. However, individuals traveling to receive cheap medical assistance in the country would not be provided with the same. Chemotherapy, dialysis, and other treatment for severe ailments can also be covered, however, it is advised that the individual informs the service provider in advance so that the necessary arrangements can be made.
Any medical issue emerging while traveling to the EU country would also be covered with the card but keep in mind that everything may not be free due to the different rules about different healthcare systems. While some may offer free treatment, in other countries, individuals contribute a small sum towards the treatment, which is often known as co-payment. At times, individuals may have to pay for the treatment upfront and will receive a refund on submission of the hospital bills. Irrespective of what the rules prevail in different countries, one thing that is guaranteed is that the individual will not be charged more than every other citizen there. To obtain these benefits, individuals need to register themselves by going to the NHS website and filling in the details needed there. Information about their full name, address, date of birth, NHS number, or National Insurance number will need to be provided. The process is applying is free of cost so unless you approach an organization to do the process for you, you will not need to pay a dime.
What are some things to keep in mind?
Firstly, unlike with the EHIC, every member in the family will have to have a separate GHIC card for themselves. This helps resolve the issue that used to crop up earlier when two family members were visiting different places by themselves and the EHIC ended up going with only one member. Parents or guardians can apply for this card on behalf of their children if they are below 16 years of age. However, those above can apply by themselves and for their spouses.
Secondly, the process of application is not the same for students going to pursue courses abroad. Students looking to do this would have to apply for a time-limited GHIC that would be based on the duration of the course. Apart from the standard details, students will have to mention the name and address of their educational institution, the details of the courses they are looking to pursue, as well as, the date and duration of the course chosen. Due to all these additional details being needed, students will not be able to apply for this card online. Applications can instead be directed to Overseas Healthcare Services, NHS Business Services Authority, Bridge House, 152 Pilgrim Street, Newcastle upon Thyme, NE1 6SN.
Therefore, to reap the freely available benefits, individuals should ensure they have their GHIC with them at all times so that it can be easily accessed. However, in the rare event that it is lost or forgotten and the person needs treatment, the only way forward is by applying for a Provisional Replacement Certificate. This certificate will provide the Individual the same entitlement as the GHIC thereby ensuring the medical expenses do not tear a hole in one’s pocket.