European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

The EHIC or "Health Card" enables holders to access medical resources when travelling outside of their EU country of residence...

European citizens and residents  travelling within the European Economic Area, (i.e. the European Union, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and Switzerland, for private or professional reasons are entitled to a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which simplifies the procedure when receiving medical assistance during their stay in a member state.

The EHIC entitles the holder to the same treatment at the same cost as a national of that country. For example, if medical care is provided free of charge in the member state where treatment is required, the claimant will be entitled to free medical care on presentation of the card or an equivalent document. However if a fee is normally applicable, this may need to be paid at the time of treatment.

Note: Rule changes in 2014 now means that it is generally not possible to apply for reimbursement of medical fees normally paid by a resident or citizen of the treating country, even if a patient would normally pay nothing in their home country. However, the implementation of this change varies from country to country so it is advisable to confirm this with your health insurer upon returning home.

The card is only valid for state provided services and not private hospitals or treatments.

It is also not an alternative to travel insurance as it only covers medically necessary services.

Note: Third-country nationals (from outside the EU/EEA) resident in the EU and holding an EHIC cannot use their EHIC in Norway, Liechtenstein or Switzerland. In Iceland, non EU/EEA nationals are only covered for emergency treatment. Holders of an EHIC in Denmark will only be eligible for free treatment in a public hospital in the event of:

  • A sudden illness
  • An unexpected aggravation of a chronic condition
  • An emergency
  • Childbirth

The Card

Cards are issued by the institution that provides health insurance in the country of residence. The only personal information on the EHIC is the card holder's surname and first name, personal identification number and date of birth. The card does not contain medical data. It contains the same information in all countries where it is issued.

The card validity period varies from country to country.

Applying for a card

Many EU countries issue the EHIC by printing the distinctive EU symbol and other relevant information on the reverse side of the standard-issue national health card or its equivalent. For those countries that require a separate application, the Europa website publishes the application process applicable to each EEC member state and Switzerland.

EHIC Smartphone Application

The European Commission (Directorate General Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion) has developed a useful multi-language smartphone application which gives details of how to use the EHIC in different countries within the EU. It summarises the treatments, costs, procedure for reimbursement and emergency numbers.

The EHIC in Bulgaria

The European Health Insurance Card allows all legal residents of Bulgaria to benefit from emergency medical treatment and care when temporarily abroad (Bulgarian nationals may not use their EHIC card in Switzerland).

Note: this is not independent travel insurance.

Applying for an EHIC in Bulgaria

Application is made through the local Regional Health Insurance Fund (RHIF) branch of the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).

Bulgarian residents using an EHIC card when out of the country must make sure that their card is valid, its validity is indicated on the card. Each member of a family, including children under 16, must have their own card. Further information is available from the local social security office.

  • An application form for the EHIC can be downloaded from the National Health Insurance website (in Bulgarian).

Claiming in Bulgaria with a card issued elsewhere

A card cannot be used within Bulgaria unless it has been issued elsewhere in the EU.

Doctors and dentists: To benefit from treatment it will be necessary to consult a doctor or dentist that has concluded an agreement with the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF). Treatment is free, although patients will have to pay a consumer tax equivalent to one percent of the Bulgarian minimum wage.

Prescriptions: Medication must be obtained from a pharmacy that is contracted to the Bulgarian National Health Insurance Fund. Patients may have to pay part of the costs if the medication is not subject to full reimbursement by the NHIF.

Hospital treatment: Treatment and diagnosis is paid for by the NHIF, although there may be some additional costs which the patient will be informed about prior to examination or treatment. A consumer tax of two percent of the minimum wage for Bulgaria is paid for each day of hospital treatment.