An EHIC card is free, don't travel abroad without it! - Updated
European Health Insurance Card
The European Health Insurance Card or better known as the “EHIC” is a 'MUST HAVE' when your travelling throughout Europe and should be on your list of things to pack when preparing to travel. Don't leave things to chance on your travels, as being a registered EHIC member could save you a fortune.
What is the EHIC for?
The EHIC is a free membership card that gives you access to state-provided healthcare (including emergency treatment) that is medically necessary before your planned date of return, during a temporary stay in any of the 28 EU countries. So, if you have an accident whilst on holiday, you are more likely to be treated on the presentation of the EHIC, without having to pay for it all or some of the treatment you may require (case dependent).
The EHIC is not valid in the following countries - Jersey, Guernsey, Sark, Herm, Monaco, San Marino, The Vatican. In this case, as with all other travel outwith the EU, you must ensure you have adequate health care travel insurance.
It also means if you need routine or specialist treatment, the monitoring of pre-existing conditions and repeat prescriptions may be covered on the EHIC. However, it is the healthcare provider who determines whether the treatment is necessary. Remember that the EHIC is only accepted in public hospitals or health centres and does not include any private healthcare options you may wish to use. Any private healthcare contract you enter into will not be covered by EHIC.
Who is Entitled to use the EHIC?
All EU citizens in countries that are members of the scheme are able to apply for a card. If you are on holiday or a temporary stay within the EEA or Switzerland (e.g. you own a second home and spend a few months of the year abroad, but still consider that you live mainly in the UK), you can use the EHIC. If you are a UK state pensioner living within the EEA and Switzerland and registered for healthcare with an S1, you can apply for an EHIC to use on a temporary visit to another EU member state (outside your country of residence). Call the Overseas Healthcare Team for more information.
EHIC and Brexit
Citizens of the United Kingdom who hold an EHIC card will have full use of the card and its provisions up to Dec 31st 2020 at which point the card will no longer be valid unless you fall into one of the exception categories below. At this point, it will be more important than ever to have adequate travel insurance, otherwise, all medical expenses will have to be paid for!
Exception Categories -
EHIC from 1 January 2021
You'll still be able to access healthcare through EHIC for visits that begin after 1 January 2021 if you're either:
- a UK state pensioner living in the EU before 31 December 2020
- a UK student studying in the EU before 31 December 2020
- a 'frontier worker' (someone who works in one state and lives in another) before 31 December 2020, for as long as you continue to be a frontier worker in the host state
- an EU national living in the UK before 31 December 2020
At the time this post was published, there is no clear guidance for visitors travelling to the UK from Jan 1st 2020 in relation to, what, if any healthcare provision may be available to EU visitors in light of the EHIC thus being invalid in the UK from Dec 31st 2020. We will update this section when more information becomes available.
The EHIC is NOT a Replacement for Travel Insurance?
You should never travel abroad without a good travel insurance policy for you and your family. Travel insurance is very inexpensive these days, but should always be included as part of those key items on your pre-holiday checklist.
NOTE – Many travel insurance companies will insist as part of the terms and conditions of the policy, that you have a valid EHIC. The reason for this, is, if you need to be treated by a private hospital because a publicly run hospital cannot treat you, the costs to be covered by the insurance company are drastically reduced. Be aware, that in these cases, insurance companies will NOT pay the full amount of the costs incurred which could result in you being left with a hefty bill.
Furthermore, if you are unfortunate and need to receive medical treatment when abroad, be very careful of what forms you are being asked to sign at the hospital. Some publicly run hospitals have private wings and often, foreign nationals requiring treatment are asked to sign forms, these may be to confirm that you are accepting to pay all costs associated with the treatment.
See our recent blog for more information on travel insurance - don't get caught out.
How to get your EHIC
You will find many companies online offering a service to complete the EHIC application process for you where they will charge you a fee. However, the card is 100% free of charge and can be completed quite easily from the following EHIC Application
Further EHIC information
Important telephone numbers while your abroad
In an emergency, call 112
Call the Overseas Healthcare Team if you lose your EHIC card whilst abroad if you need a PRC - provisional replacement certificate, which will cover you temporarily: (+44) 191 218 1999 ( Mon-Fri 8-5 )
Call the FCO Consular Assistance Team for all consular enquiries abroad in Europe: (+44) 20 7008 1500 (24 hour helpline)
(This blog post was first published - Dec 2017 & Reviewed/Updated - April 2019; April 2020)
NOTE - Information contained in this article was accurate at the time of publishing and should be used for guidance only. Whilst we make every effort to keep our information up to date, public information is constantly changing and therefore, no responsibility will be accepted if this information becomes out of date or which warrants this information to be inaccurate.