The United Kingdom’s referendum result on June 23rd 2016 saw fifty-two percent of participants vote to leave the European Union. A breakdown of the figures shows that the turnout for the referendum across the United Kingdom was 71.8% with over thirty million people casting their votes. England voted strongly in favour of leaving the European Union with 53.4% voting for this outcome as opposed to the 46.6% who voted to remain in the European Union. Although Scotland and Northern Ireland voted against leaving the European Union, Wales followed England in voting to leave the European Union with 52.5% voting for Brexit and 47.5% voting to remain.
Although technically the United Kingdom are still in the European Union and haven’t triggered article fifty to leave the European Union, many questions have been raised as to what happens now on a number of major issues. One key question that has been constantly asked since the country’s decision to leave the European Union on June 23rd has been what is going to happen with the European Health Insurance Card commonly known as the “EHIC” and will it be deemed invalid due to the Brexit?
To answer this question, we first need to know what a European Health Insurance Card is. A European Health Insurance Card is a small piece of plastic which gives the holder the right to state provided health care in any European Economic Area country and Switzerland at a reduced cost and in some cases for free. It can be accessed when on temporary stay or on holiday in one of these countries. The card covers all necessary medical treatment until the holder returns to the United Kingdom from their stay and gives them the same rights as a citizen from the same country with regards to medical care. It can cover pre-existing medical conditions and maternity care as long as the card holder’s reason for visiting the country was not to specifically give birth or receive medical treatment.
Just because the United Kingdom has decided to leave the European Union doesn’t mean that the European Health Insurance Card will be deemed invalid. Although the decision has been made, the country is still part of the European Union for the foreseeable future or two years to be precise. If article fifty was triggered tomorrow, it would take at least two years for the country to leave the European Union. Even if we completely exited from the European Union, it is still likely that the European Health Insurance Card scheme would continue to operate. The United Kingdom could make alternative arrangements as it did with many other European countries before joining the EEC and still has bilateral deals with sixteen other nations including New Zealand, Australia and Serbia. It is not a criterion for a country to be part of the European Union to access the European Health Insurance Card scheme. For example, Switzerland are not in the European Union and still have access to the scheme so the United Kingdom could follow suit.
In summary you can still submit a EHIC Renewal today and have use the European cover that it provides to travel to European countries.