The GHIC gap: 32 million Brits do not have vital health insurance cards

  • Nearly two thirds of Brits do not have a valid EHIC or GHIC – seven million more than in 2021
  • Fewer than nine per cent (five million) of Brits have got or have applied for the new GHIC
  • 76 per cent of people admit to not knowing what health insurance cards cover
  • Nearly 9.4 million Brits (18 per cent) mistakenly believe they must pay for a GHIC


New research1 from Direct Line Travel Insurance reveals nearly two thirds of Brits (32 million people) don’t have, or don’t know if they have, either a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or new Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). This could be due to nearly a third (29 per cent) of Brits being unaware that the GHIC has replaced the EHIC. Just nine per cent of adults surveyed reported that they have a GHIC or have applied for one, and only 17 per cent plan to do so.

Over 19 million Brits (36 per cent) are set to see their EHIC cards expire over the next four years, which if not replaced with a GHIC could lead to some costly trips abroad.  Some 9.4 million people (18 per cent) mistakenly believe they must pay for a GHIC to replace the EHIC, with the average cost estimated at £9.30. However, those looking to get their GHIC needn’t be put off as it is completely free.

Over three quarters (76 per cent) of people do not understand what health insurance cards cover them for while abroad. Misconceptions include thinking they cover repatriation costs back to the UK (seven per cent), mountain rescue (three per cent) and cosmetic procedures (one per cent). While EHIC and GHIC cards do not cover these costs, they do grant access to emergency or necessary medical care for the same cost as a resident in the EU country you’re visiting2.

It is vital that holidaymakers with a valid EHIC or GHIC still purchase travel insurance but many are not doing so. In fact, 15 million (28 per cent) Brits have travelled to Europe without travel insurance in the past, leaving them vulnerable to both expensive medical care (if, for example, they are initially admitted via ambulance to private medical centres) and costly repatriations to the UK if they are too unwell to return as planned. With the average medical insurance claim3 standing at almost £1,500, travellers should do their upmost to protect themselves in case the worst does happen.

Tom Bishop, Head of Direct Line Travel Insurance said: “This research highlights that millions of people are travelling to Europe without any form of insurance or cover, putting them at risk of unexpected and unpleasant bills if anything unplanned happens.

“We hope this year could finally see us return to holidaying abroad without the burden of restrictions, but it’s worrying to see the GHIC gap is growing so we urge anyone travelling overseas to make sure they, and their family, have all got one before their trip.

“As always, the best way to protect yourself when booking holidays and travelling within Europe is to carry a free, valid EHIC or GHIC and to add a comprehensive travel insurance policy for that critical additional layer of protection.”


Notes to Editors

1 Research commissioned with Opinium between 14th - 18th January 2022 among 2,000 UK adults

2 Information from:,reduced%20cost%20or%20for%20free

3 Analysis of Direct Line Group travel claims made in 2019 (in normal travelling conditions) for medical costs whilst travelling abroad.

For further information please contact:

Chelsey Wheeler
PR manager – Direct Line  

Tel: 01651 832 095

Email: [email protected]    

Direct Line

Started in 1985, Direct Line became the first UK insurance company to use the telephone as its main channel of communication. It provides motor, home, travel and pet insurance cover direct to customers by phone or on-line.

Direct Line general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Direct Line and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

Customers can find out more about Direct Line products or get a quote by calling 0345 246 3761 or visiting