UK citizens travelling to Europe after Brexit may see changes to how they access healthcare, particularly when it comes to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

Patients visiting doctor
British travellers could face changes to how they access healthcare abroad after Brexit. Image by sturti/Getty

Currently British travellers can access the EHIC, which guarantees them access to healthcare in the EU - or in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland - for free or at a reduced cost if they unexpectedly fall ill. The card is proof that the patient is insured in an EU member state and essentially guarantees them the same rights to healthcare as resident of that country. If locals pay for healthcare, you pay for healthcare and if they don't, you don't.

However, British travellers may not be able to rely on this system for long as the UK faces losing reciprocal agreements with the EU after Brexit. This means that they may not be able to use an EHIC to access healthcare in the same way as they do now and they might be liable for treatment costs.

Brexit travel insurance
British travellers are being advised to take out travel insurance to cover medical costs in the EU. Image by

In its latest update, the UK government says its working on reaching an agreement with the EU and individual member states to continue the current healthcare arrangements until 31 December 2020, even if a no-deal Brexit goes ahead. However, it's urging people planning to travel on or after 31 October 2019 (Brexit day) to buy travel insurance "as you would if visiting a non-EU country" as EHIC provisions can't be guaranteed.

The NHS has detailed advice about the current healthcare agreements for each member state. Depending on the country, the healthcare offered to British travellers may differ. You can check the guide for the country you plan to visit through the NHS here or the UK government's travel advice here.

European health insurance card
The European health insurance card, pictured, guarantees access to healthcare free or at a lower cost in Europe. Image by PhotoAlto/Frederic Cirou/Getty

For now, the state of play is: "if you have an EHIC issued by the UK, this will remain valid until the UK leaves the EU or if your treatment started before exit day." 

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