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 (TEAM) in Italy

The Tessera Europea di Assicurazione Malattia (TEAM) allows legal residents of Italy to benefit from emergency medical treatment and care when temporarily in a member country.

Applying for a EHIC (TEAM) in Italy

Applications are made to the local health authority, ASL. In some regions the TEAM card is printed on the reverse of the regional service card, the Carta Regionale Dei Servizi (CNS).

It is a plastic, non-electronic card and is valid for a maximum of six years. Each member of a family must have their own card, including children under sixteen.

This card is not to be used for Italian residents and nationals to obtain medical treatment in Italy; it is for use by Italian residents and citizens when visiting other EU/EEA countries.

Foreign Residents of Italy

If a foreign national is a permanent resident of Italy (or on an S1) and paying into the Italian system, applications for the card must be made in Italy; the card will not be issued in Britain.

Claiming in Italy

When using an EHIC issued outside Italy in Italy the following applies:

  • Doctors and Dentists: present the EHIC card immediately and ensure that the medical professional is affiliated with the state national health service, Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN); most dentists are private as are some hospitals, however, there is a system of affiliation whereby refunds are still made in some cases; keep receipts for any payments made as this may be refunded from the Azienda Unitá Sanitaria Locale (ASL)
  • Prescriptions: some medication prescribed by SSN doctors is free; some medications require a non-refundable payment
  • Hospital Treatment: the ASL can provide a list of SSN or SSN-affiliated hospitals; present the EHIC on arrival or ask the hospital to contact the ASL at once to confirm coverage; charges for ambulance travel and medication vary from region to region

All reimbursements can only be made by the ASL on the presentation of original receipts.

Further Information