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 Germany

The European Health Insurance Card (Europäische Krankenversicherungskarte) allows all legal residents of Germany to benefit from emergency medical treatment and care when temporarily elsewhere in the EEA. All German residents must have health insurance and the EHIC is actually part of the health insurance card (Gesundheitskarte). The EHIC information can be found on the back of the insurance card.

EU citizens receiving pensions from their home country

The responsibility for issuing the EHIC does not lie with a person's state of residence, but with the state where a person is paying to or benefiting from the Social Security System. This affects people receiving pensions from their EU home country rather than their country of residency. A resident of Germany, receiving pension in for example the UK, should now apply for the EHIC in the UK.

However, it is not possible in this case to apply for the EHIC online. An application should be made by post using the EHIC form that is sent along with the S1 form ( a form which must be filled out to register for health care cover when moving to another country).

Claiming in Germany with a card issued elsewhere

A card cannot be used for medical care within Germany unless it has been issued from another country.

  • Doctors and dentists: The EHIC card is only valid in practices that operate under the state health insurance system. These practices usually show a sign saying Kassenartzt or Alle Kassen. Both the EHIC card and passport or ID card are required at an appointment
  • Prescriptions: Patients pay approximately ten percent towards the cost of the medicines and treatments
  • Hospital treatment: Patients pay approximately ten percent towards the cost of hospital treatment as well as €10 for every day spent in hospital for up to 28 days a year
  • Ambulance: Patients usually pay ten percent of transport costs