Government warns EHIC may not be valid in event of no-deal Brexit

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) - Credit: Archant

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) 'may not be valid' in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the government has admitted.

The card allows Brits abroad in EU countries to receive medical treatment free or at a reduced cost if they fall ill or have an accident.

But late last night the Department of Health and Social Care (DoH) was forced to issue new guidance saying that may no longer be the case if Britain crashes out of the EU on March 29 without a deal.

It said: 'Travellers who intend to use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) must check what the arrangement is with the specific country they are visiting as the card may not be valid,' adding the new advice also applied to students studying in the EU.

In addition, it said Brits should follow current advice from the government which recommends travellers take out separate travel insurance to cover any healthcare requirements needed in any country within the EU.

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This was particularly advisable for travellers with a pre-existing or long-term health condition, it said.

The DoH said citizens living outside the UK were encouraged to register for healthcare access in the EU/EEA country in which they live in.

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'Some residents may need to be a long-term resident or pay social security contributions to access free or discounted healthcare,' said the department.

'If a resident is in the process of applying for residency, the advice suggests individuals take out separate health insurance.

'Until further agreements are reached between the UK and individual EU member states, the government advises UK citizens to follow this latest guidance to ensure they are fully prepared for any unexpected healthcare requirements overseas.'

Labour MP and GP Dr Paul Williams, a supporter of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, said: 'Health care on holiday is not guaranteed under Brexit.

'This is a benefit we currently have that we might lose.

'In the absence of an agreement on future relations that covers this topic, the rights currently enjoyed by 27m UK citizens, thanks to the EHIC, could cease after Brexit.

'We are facing a potential emergency situation for millions of people who need vital healthcare.'

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