European Health Insurance Card

The European Health Insurance Card, EHIC, allows EU residents to access medical help when travelling outside of their EU country of residence…

If you are a European citizen or legal resident of Europe you are entitled to a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you are registered with the health insurance system in your country of residence. 

Contrary to popular belief, emergency healthcare in France is not free if you have an EHIC card. It only entitles you to the same level of reimbursement as a French resident (see below for costs). If you want to ensure that you don’t pay any fees in the event of an accident or an emergency, you should take out travel insurance. 

What the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) does, is simplify the procedure when receiving medical assistance during your stay in a member state. The EHIC entitles you 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, you will be entitled to free medical care on presentation of the card or an equivalent document. Presentation of the EHIC guarantees reimbursement of the medical costs on the spot, or soon after returning home. In the event of treatment being required present the card at the earliest opportunity. The card is only valid for state provided services, not private hospitals or treatments. The card is available free of charge through the local health authority of your country of residence.

It is important to remember that this card doesn’t allow you to free treatment; just because treatment might be free in your home country doesn’t mean it will be free in the country where it is used. It cannot be used if you are coming to France for planned medical treatment, you will need an S2 form in this case, see the article on Healthcare Abroad for more information.

Note: If you are a third-country national (from outside the EU/EEA) resident in the EU and holding an EHIC, you cannot use your EHIC in Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein or Switzerland. 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 accident
  • Childbirth


If you are an EU resident, coming to study in France, you are considered on a temporary stay and should be affiliated to the health insurance scheme of your country of origin.

Before you leave, however, check that the health insurance will cover your medical expenses for the duration of your stay in France. If this is the case, you can use your European health insurance card in France. Otherwise, you will have to contribute to the French social security student scheme or take out private insurance. 

How to get an EHIC in France

If you live in France and contribute to the health insurance system (generally with the CPAM) you are entitled to an EHIC. It is free of charge and can be requested online via the website, or at your local CPAM office at least 15 days before departure; no documents need to be provided. If a card is needed urgently, the CPAM office can provide a provisional certificate which is valid for three months.

  • Each member of a family must have their own card, including children under sixteen
  • This card is only for use in member countries outside France and does not in any way replace the Carte Vitale (the French health insurance card). It is not a method of payment
  • The card is valid for 2 years from the date of issue.

Using the EHIC in Europe

French health organisation CLEISS publishes a helpful list of the services available to French card holders on holiday in other EEA countries.

Travellers without an EHIC 

If you don't have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or you are unable to use it, you cannot be refused treatment, but you may have to pay for it upfront and claim reimbursement once you get home.

How to use your EHIC when visiting France

If you are visiting France and need medical treatment you will be reimbursed the same amount as a French resident. Healthcare is not free in France, so you will be reimbursed as follows:

70% of doctor or dentist fees as the long as the doctor or dentist is ‘conventionné'. This means they are registered to provide state healthcare. However, this is only 70% of the basic fee (so you will be reimbursed just under 16 euros). For medical providers that charge amounts above the basic fee, the rest will be paid by you. You must pay the costs up front and you will be given a form (feuille de soins) that you must provide to get reimbursed (generally at a local CPAM health insurance office in France).

80% of hospital fees - with your EHIC you don’t need to pay the costs up front in a hospital, but you will have to pay the remaining 20%. In addition, if you are hospitalised, you must pay a daily fee of 20 euros, which is not reimbursed. For serious medical treatment you will pay a flat fee, refundable in your country of residence.

Prescriptions - Prescribed medicines are only refundable if they are listed as reimbursable, the amount varies depending on the type of medicine. Ask the pharmacist which medicines are reimbursable and at what percentage. As with doctors and dentists, you pay the costs up front and will be given a form (feuille de soins) to use for reimbursement.

If you can’t claim a refund at the local CPAM office, you should submit your claims with receipts and any ‘feuille de soins’ forms to the health insurer provider in your home country.

Important note for those on a skiing holiday in France: Search and rescue costs are not covered for by your EHIC in France, if you are caught in an accident in and need to be rescued by French mountain services, you will have to pay 100% of the bill, which is why travel insurance is always essential.

References and Further Information