Holiday warning: ‘Misleading’ post-Brexit GHIC could leave Britons out of pocket

Martin Lewis discusses travel insurance for 2021 holidays

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The Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) was launched after Brexit to replace the EHIC which Britons no longer have access to. However, with holidays having been on hold so far this year, some experts have warned Britons may not be fully “aware” of how the card works.

In a worst-case scenario, this could see UK holidaymakers faced with financial losses while enjoying their first post-pandemic trip.

According to experts from Forbes Advisor UK, this is largely due to the GHIC’s “misleading name”.

Laura Howard, personal finance expert at Forbes Advisor UK, said: “[One of the] shortcomings of the GHIC is that, despite its name, it only applies to the 27 countries that constitute the EU.

“It won’t provide any support at all in other parts of the world, including popular destinations like the USA, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, South and Central America, and Australia.

“Travel insurance, on the other hand, will provide cover in the countries or regions you have said you will be visiting.”

There are also concerns over a lack of understanding of how the GHIC works.

New data provided by Opinium Research on behalf of travel insurance provider Battleface found many Britons are “unaware of the protection that is given by the GHIC”.

Katie Crowe, director of communications at Battleface explained: “Since the introduction of the GHIC in January, you are still able to use your EHIC until its expiration date, at which point you can apply for a GHIC.

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“I would remind those travelling that your GHIC does not replace travel insurance.

“Your card will only cover state-medical provision, and you might still have to pay at the point of provision.

“Travellers should carry their GHIC with them and take out the necessary travel insurance to ensure that any other associated costs, including repatriation, are covered.”

Indeed, Britons who hope to utilise the GHIC as an alternative for travel insurance may be severely disappointed by the gaps in its coverage.

Ms Howard, of Forbes Advisor UK, continued: “While the GHIC, like the EHIC before it, is a must-have for anyone planning a trip to Europe, it’s not a substitute for a good travel insurance policy, despite its name.”

Ms Howard explained: “The GHIC is certainly a useful companion to travel insurance because many insurers will reduce or even waive the excess that’s usually payable on a medical claim if the policyholder also has a GHIC.

“And as the GHIC is free, this really is a no-brainer.”

She added: “Unlike travel insurance, a GHIC won’t provide cover for cancellation of your holiday, whether in whole or part.

“Nor will it reimburse you should your baggage be lost or stolen or your holiday is delayed and you incur out-of-pocket expenses as a result.

“Plus, while the GHIC will provide access to cheaper healthcare in the EU, this could still come at a cost to you whereas travel insurance will help foot the entire bill.

“A GHIC won’t contribute to the cost if you need to be repatriated to the UK for medical reasons, whereas a good travel insurance policy will.”

GHIC’s are available from the Government website and are free to apply for, something which as many as 70 percent of UK adults don’t realise, according to Battleface’s research.

“In the current climate, it’s crucial that travellers are aware of how they’ll be protected in the event of an accident or medical emergency when abroad,” said Ms Crowe.

“Recently, there has been an influx of online scammers who are trying to charge for processing GHIC applications, which is absolutely not the case as they are always provided for free.

“People are profiting from the gaps in consumer knowledge, and it’s essential that this is rectified.”

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