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Millions of holidaymakers at risk from GHIC scammers

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Millions of Brits believe that they have to pay for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), the replacement for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) that was introduced following Brexit, new research has revealed.

The free card works in much the same way as the old EHIC card, entitling cardholders to emergency healthcare when travelling abroad. And most importantly, it’s absolutely free to get if you go down the official route of applying for a GHIC from the government.

However, there is a real danger that would-be travellers will be duped into paying for it instead.

Wasting money

Direct Line Travel Insurance found that when you search for ‘GHIC application’ on a search engine, you are quickly swamped not only with official links to the NHS’s application pages, but also to unofficial websites promising to manage the application process for you.

Crucially, these sites charge for this ‘help’, typically of around £29 per application. These scammers claim that they can fast-track or manage the application for you, but the reality is that the application is handled in precisely the same way whether you do it yourself or pay someone to handle it for you. As a result, paying these firms to carry out your GHIC application for you is a complete waste of time and money.

It’s not uncommon to fall for this scam though, since the same misleading tactics were employed to great effect with the EHIC card, which was also free to obtain. According to Direct Line’s research as many as 8.5 million people paid for their EHIC when they last applied.

Tom Bishop, head of Direct Line Travel Insurance, said that there are plenty of firms ready to make a quick profit from people who don’t realise that applying for a GHIC is free.

He continued: “Many of these websites are set up with the aim of fooling potential travellers, with some going as far as paying advertising rates to get their website to the top of search engines. It is vitally important that people know that the application process is free and there is only one website you can apply for them on without being charged. The NHS website.”

What does the GHIC cover?

It’s worth highlighting that the GHIC, like the EHIC before it, is not particularly well-named as it doesn’t really provide health insurance. While it covers you for emergency healthcare, it doesn’t cover everything.

The Direct Line study found that around a quarter of Brits mistakenly believe that a GHIC means the cardholder will receive the exact same care as from the NHS, but this isn’t true. It instead means you are entitled to the same care that a resident would receive, so if they would have to pay for a specific treatment, so would you.

Examples of the specific forms of ‘necessary’ healthcare which the GHIC entitles you to include: 

  • Emergency treatment and trips to A&E
  • Treatment for long-term or pre-existing conditions
  • Routine medical care for pre-existing conditions that need monitoring
  • Oxygen and kidney dialysis.

Just as with the EHIC before it, having a GHIC is not a replacement for a proper travel insurance policy. Direct Line points out that the average medical insurance claim comes to almost £1,500, so attempting to head off on holiday without proper cover in place is potentially a very expensive gamble.

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