Great Britain

How will travel insurance and EHIC change after Brexit?

TRAVEL insurance could be more expensive for British holidaymakers next year after the UK leaves the European Union.

The government is expected to push guidance to remind those going abroad to buy medical cover for when they are on holiday 2020 and beyond.

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Currently, UK citizens can get free cover for medical costs when visiting a country inside the EU with the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

But after December 31 2020 - Brexit day - these will no longer be valid and Brits will have to pay extra to buy separate cover.

It comes as holidaymakers are already facing more expensive holiday cover due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

New rules will require Brits to have six months validity on their passports, and animal owners to subject pets, including cats and dogs, to EU blood-tests before travelling.

What is the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)?

THE EHIC covers you in most European countries, just like the NHS does at home. It lets doctors know not to bill you or your insurer for anything that qualifies under the scheme.

It will cover state-provided healthcare that is deemed “medically necessary until the cardholder returns home”, which also includes treatments for pre-existing medical conditions and routine maternity care.

It doesn't replace travel insurance, however, which covers for other situations including certain medical care.

Also, the EHIC only covers health treatments, so won't protect you against cancellation, lost luggage or missed connections.

The EHIC won’t cover medical costs from private healthcare providers and it also isn’t valid on cruises.

It also won’t cover you for any coronavirus-related claims pre-departure such as if you need to cancel your trip.

Brits will also be advised to check their mobile phone provider's roaming policy, as free coverage may end.

"As with all Brexit matters, there's some guesswork involved in what the state of play will be once the next deadline passes - and the transition period ends," warns James Daley from Fairer Finance.

Here, we've spoken to the experts about what holidaymakers should expect when buying travel insurance and medical cover after Brexit:

Will travel insurance get more expensive after Brexit?

One of the reasons travel insurance for trips to countries within the EU are cheaper than those for the rest of the world is because Brits are also covered by EHIC.

These are free to apply for and partially cover, or cover in full, any state-provided medical costs incurred if you get ill abroad in an EU country.

It means that UK tourists can save cash by purchasing holiday insurance that only covers things like cancellations, theft and lost luggage.

But after December 31, EHIC will no longer be valid, which could see the cost of travel insurance go up as British holidaymakers look to rely on their policies more for medical treatment.

The UK government is currently working on drawing up agreements with other countries inside the EU that will mean UK tourists' emergency medical costs are covered when they visit.

Trade body the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) says that its "hopeful" these agreements will go ahead, and they could keep the price of travel insurance low when visiting these countries.

James Daley says that the only way he expects Brexit to have an impact on the price of travel insurances is if these deals fall through or are not drawn up in time for the deadline.

Can I stil get an EHIC?

WHILE Britain negotiates the transition the UK will remain an EU member so the EHIC will still be valid for holidays in Europe.

Brits have been warned to check that they are still valid during the pandemic - 5.7 million cards are due to expire this year.

You can apply for a free card at www.ehic.org.uk.

Don't get conned by middlemen as some websites will charge for the cards.

"It seems highly unlikely that there will ever be a time when British citizens won’t be able to use the health systems of countries like France and Spain when they’re on holiday," he told The Sun.

"But in theory, if these agreements are not signed before the end of the transition period, there may be a a short period where people need to rely on their travel insurance to cover health costs."

Resolver's Martyn James said that the pandemic is more likely to push up prices.

He said: "Insurers are under no obligation to spell out definitively what their charges are - and I bet they blame it on coronavirus."

Brits who have already booked a holiday for next year are advised to buy insurance now.

Those who have bought an annual policy before 2021 or a single trip policy for next year, will still be covered if they need to make a medical claim after the UK has left the EU.

Will it affect policies for Brits with pre-existing medical conditions?

Brits with pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or blood clotting disorders, already have to pay extra for travel insurance because they're more likely to need medical care when abroad.

James Daley warned that those with existing conditions should expect to pay more for their insurance after Brexit if they're travelling to an EU country that isn't in an agreement with the UK.

He said: "If you’re travelling outside the EU at the moment, you have to pay much more to cover pre-existing conditions, and post-Brexit, there may be more countries that end up costing you more in terms of travel insurance."

Martyn James worries that passengers with existing medical conditions are already struggling to get cheaper holiday insurance due to the knock on impact of contracting Covid-19 abroad, rather than Brexit causing a price hike.

"I have a number of concerns about older people who consider themselves physically fit, but because they are over 70 will find it tougher to get a policy - and it's tough already," he added.

What do I need to look out for when buying travel insurance?

As possible healthcare cover agreements are still being negotiated, it's impossible to say exactly what Brexit changes insurers may put into policies.

The best way to check will be to compare a single trip policy to an EU country like Spain to one to a non-EU country like Turkey.

"But given the other variable risks in these countries it'll be hard to say definitively," said Martyn James.

When buying travel insurance for a trip after December 31 2020, you should look out for any clauses that relate to Britain's departure from the EU.

While most insurers have committed to offering full coverage after Brexit, James Daley advises taking a "bit of extra time to read your policy" before signing on the dotted line.

The other thing to look out for is whether there are restrictions on receiving private medical care.

"Some insurers will cover it, some won’t, so checking your policy carefully is vitally important," said Salman Haqqi, personal finance expert at insurance comparison site money.co.uk.

"The reason is that some countries and areas in Europe, such as Greece don’t have ‘free healthcare options’, so a traveller would have to have private treatment.

"Policies will state if no private healthcare is covered."

Salman added that it will be people who didn't buy travel insurance in 2020 who are most likely to be affected by any changes caused by Brexit.

Those that have bought policies should have healthcare cover included for trips after 2020, until the term ends.

But holidaymakers holding off purchasing cover until the new year will be urged to buy the same level of insurance, including medical care, that's recommended to trips to nations outside of the EU.

Which travel insurers are offering polices for after Brexit?

Comparison site Money.co.uk told The Sun that it hasn't seen any travel insurers making changes to their policies regarding Britain's departure from the EU.

We've asked some of the UK's leading travel insurers to find out what changes they are expecting to make to policies in a post-Brexit world.

We will update this article when we hear back from them.

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