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 the Netherlands

The European Health Insurance Card (Europese gezondheidskaart) allows all legal residents of the Netherlands to benefit from emergency medical treatment and care when temporarily abroad.

Note: this is not independent travel insurance.

Applying for an EHIC in the Netherlands

As it is not possible to have Dutch health insurance without being a resident or citizen of the Netherlands, access to an EHIC is automatic. The EHIC is almost always printed on the reverse side of the holder's local health insurance card. For anyone who falls outside of the usual categories, an application can be made to a person's primary health insurer (Basisverzekering zorgverzekeraar) or via the website of the Dutch EHIC, which distributes the card. Applications can be made on line, and the non-electronic card will be posted within four working days.

Dutch residents using an EHIC card when out of the country must make sure that their insurance is valid. It is valid for one year and each member of a family, including children under 16, must have their own card. Further information is available from an individual's local health insurer (zorgverzekeraar).

Claiming in the Netherlands

The card cannot be used within the Netherlands unless it has been issued elsewhere in the EU.

Doctors and dentists: make sure that the doctor providing treatment is a part of the health insurance scheme. Normally treatment is free; however, only children are eligible for state dental care in the Netherlands.

Prescriptions: While some medication is free to the patient, this is not the case for all: some medicines are paid for in part by the patient and yet others must be paid in full. These costs are not refundable.

Ambulances: If a doctor agrees that ambulance travel is essential then it is free to the patient. However, if not, it must be paid for.

Hospital treatment: A doctor will need to get authorisation from the insurer to give free treatment to a foreigner. Ideally, contact a doctor before being admitted to hospital, however, if that is not possible show the EHIC at the earliest opportunity so that the insurer can be contacted.