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.
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.
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
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 United Kingdom
The EHIC is not independent travel insurance. The European Health Insurance Card allows most legal residents of the UK to benefit from emergency medical treatment and care at a reduced cost or for free when temporarily abroad. In some European countries bills may have to be paid upfront. Claims for a refund should be made before returning to the UK.
Note: some UK residents may not be covered for healthcare in Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Denmark, Iceland and Norway.
- For information on the coverage available in these countries, visit the NHS website
Applying for an EHIC in the UK
Anyone resident in the UK may apply for an EHIC card. Applications for the card can be made online, by post or by telephone. Non EEA nationals may only apply by post, application forms are available from Post Offices.
The following information is required when applying for a card
- Date of birth
- National insurance or NHS number (CHI number for residents of Scotland, or Health and Care Number for residents of Northern Ireland)
The card is valid for up to five years, the card should be renewed before the expiry date. If the card is lost or stolen, Tel: 0845 605 0707 or +44 191 212 7500 from abroad