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Will the EHIC still be valid after Brexit?

By Reality Check team
BBC News

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If you are planning a holiday in a country in the European Union (EU) in 2021 you might be wondering whether your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will still be valid.

Your current rights

The EHIC currently entitles you to state-provided medical treatment if you fall ill or have an accident in any EU country, or in Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, where the scheme also applies.

The UK has issued 27 million EHIC cards.

They cover pre-existing medical conditions and routine maternity care as well as emergency care. Individuals with chronic illnesses, for example those who require dialysis, can travel knowing they will receive treatment on the same terms as the citizens of the country they are visiting.

The UK is currently in a Brexit transition period with the EU until 31 December 2020, during which your EHIC will remain valid.

media captionConfused by Brexit jargon? Reality Check unpacks the basics.

What will happen after 2020?

If you are travelling after 2020, the EHIC will no longer be valid for most UK citizens.

The government website says you should buy travel insurance with healthcare cover before you go on holiday.

It warns that it is "particularly important" to get travel insurance with the right cover if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

UK state pensioners living in the EU before the end of 2020 will be able to use their EHIC beyond 2020.

The EHIC will also be valid for the UK students who start a course in the EU before the end of 2020 until their course finishes and for so-called "frontier workers" - people who work in one state and live in another.

A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care said: "The future of reciprocal healthcare arrangements between the UK and EU are subject to ongoing negotiations, and the UK is working with the EU to establish arrangements that provide healthcare cover for tourists, short-term business visitors and service providers."

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What about EU citizens living in the UK?

EU nationals living in the UK before the end of 2020 will be able to continue using the NHS for their health care while in the UK.

But unlike UK citizens, they will also be able to continue using their UK-issued EHIC after the end of the transition when they travel to another EU country.

An estimated 3.7 million EU nationals lived in the UK in 2019, making up 5.6% of the UK population.

Their rights are guaranteed by the UK-EU withdrawal agreement which is written into UK law.

Healthcare deals with non-EU countries

The UK has reciprocal health insurance deals with a few non-EU countries, including Australia and New Zealand, under which visitors can receive urgent treatment at a reduced cost or for free.

In other words, visitors are treated as if they are resident in the country in question.

But unlike the EHIC, the agreements do not cover pre-existing conditions.

These reciprocal deals will be unaffected by future UK-EU negotiations.

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