Friday, October 20, 2017
   
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Don't Be Caught Out Buying a Free EHIC Card!

UK citizens can still apply for and use a new FREE EHIC European Health Insurance Card - at least up until the end of March 2019 - the proposed end of the initial two year Brexit transitional period.

However, many applicants are at risk of being caught out by applying online, to unofficial - but official-looking - websites.

They still get their EHIC card by post in a couple of weeks but pay a fee of up to £35 a time for the trouble!

There are a number of unofficial websites which will deliver your new EHIC card - but you could pay for the privilege unnecessarily, warns the NHS Business Services Authority.

According to the Authority, "you can renew your EHIC for free at nhs.uk/ehic but unofficial websites may charge if you apply through them.

"You can apply to renew your EHIC up to six months before the expiry date, but you cannot renew your EHIC online if you live abroad. If you live abroad telephone 0300 3301350 from the UK or (00 44) 191 279 0575 from abroad for information.

"Note that if you need to use the UK EHIC to access healthcare in the EU and the four countries that comprise the European Free Trade Area, you must be entitled to a UK EHIC at the time of treatment. If you use a UK EHIC to access healthcare abroad when you are not entitled to a UK EHIC you may be liable for the full cost of all treatment received."

Adds the NHS Business Services Authority: "The EHIC entitles you to reduced cost or sometimes free state-provided healthcare where treatment becomes medically necessary during a temporary visit to other countries of the European Economic Area or Switzerland. The card is only valid for medical treatment offered under the state healthcare schemes operating in these countries and gives access to treatment under the same terms as people who live in the country you are visiting."

Meanwhile, Alan Wardle, ABTA Director of Public Affairs says he disagrees with Brexit Secretary David Davis that UK citizens will have to lose the EHIC health treatment card after the UK leaves the EU.

"Brexit shouldn’t have to mean that we lose reciprocal medical care rights with other European countries: the EHIC card is currently valid in Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU.

"It is an important consumer protection for British citizens, used over 200,000 times last year, and the government should seek to protect it in the current negotiations. Maintaining  consumer confidence on issues like this will be important over the next couple of years.”

Brexit was of course triggered by the Prime Minister Theresa May at the end of March this year, increasing fears about the future of the EHIC card among UK travellers.

The European Health Insurance System (EHIC) allows member countries to provide public healthcare services to visitors from other EHIC member nations - ie the 28 countries that make up the European Union and the four countries that comprise the European Free Trade Association. Three nations in the EFTA namely, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Iceland, decided to join the European Economic Area. Switzerland, another EFTA member, did not join the EEA. As such, when people talk about the countries that accept the EHIC, they always say EEA + Switzerland.

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