Guide to the European Health Insurance Card
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows access to state-provided healthcare in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland at a reduced cost, or sometimes free of charge. The card can be used at any kind of health service, like at a general practitioner, hospital or pharmacy. Benefits depend on the country's standard of care. To find out about a specific country's standards, research the member state's healthcare.
The pocket-sized plastic card is free and necessary to receive treatment. Carry your EHIC with you at all times to prove you are entitled to healthcare. The card contains basic information such as the card holder's name and surname and date of birth, but no medical details. It is easy to use as it has a gold chip that contains complete medical history and records.
The EHIC replaces the E111 form and E111 are now invalid. Do not attempt to use a E111.
What Can the Card be Used For?
The EHIC covers any medical treatment that becomes necessary during your trip. The card gives access to reduced-cost or free medical treatment from state healthcare providers.
- Accident or emergency
- Treatment of a chronic or pre-existing medical condition that becomes necessary during your visit
- Routine maternity care as long as you're not going abroad to give birth. However, where the birth happens unexpectedly, the card will cover the cost of all medical treatment for mother and baby that is linked to the birth.
- Oxygen and kidney dialysis, although this will need to be arranged and pre-booked.
It is not permissible to use it if the patient intentionally decides to obtain medical treatment abroad. The EHIC is also not an alternative to travel insurance. The card does not cover private sector health care providers. It is important to have both an EHIC and a valid private travel insurance policy.
Who is Eligible?
The European Health Insurance Card is issued to:
- EU nationals
- Nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA)
- Spanish nationals
- Family members of the above, whatever their nationality
- Nationals of other countries, who are covered by a social security system in one of the Member States of the EU, the EEA or Spain
There are some restrictions depending on your nationality. In addition, applicants must be over 16 years of age in order to apply. Residents of the Channel Islands and the Isle Of Man are not eligible.
How to Apply For an EHIC
Each country is responsible for producing and distributing the card in its own territory. Click on link to find your country's information and contact info.
For example, cards for residents of the UK can be applied for online, or by phoning the automated service on 0845 606 2030.
The front of the card looks the same in each country, though the information appears in different languages. The back of the card can vary from country to country.
- NHS or National Insurance Number
- Forenames & Surname/Family Name of applicant
- Date of Birth of each applicant
How do I get an EHIC for my child?
Every family member needs a card, including children. Parents should apply for an EHIC in their own name and include the child as a dependant.
How do I renew my EHIC?
A EHIC is valid for 5 years and may be renewed up to 6 months before its expiry date. The expiry date is printed on the front of the card. Renewals can be completed online, by phone, or by post depending on the country of residency.
To renew, applicants must provide their EHIC Personal Identification Number (PIN). If you do not have your PIN, you may still renew the card online if none of the details have changed. If some of the details have changed since the card was issued, you may not be able to renew your card online without your PIN.
If the name has changed
You cannot renew online, although you can renew online if you have your PIN and need to change the name
Address has changed
If none of your other details have changed, or if you have previously informed us of your change of address, you can renew online. Simply enter your new address in the address field; your renewed card(s) will be sent to this address.
How to use the Card
If there is an emergency: dial 112. The European emergency number is valid all in all EU/ EEA member states and is free of charge.
If you require treatment while abroad, you should first locate a facility using the database. Card holders should be able to simply supply their card for care. Through the database, you can find institutions involved with the reimbursement of health care services. Users are able to select country and keywords, and are supplied with the facilities contact information (address, phone number, e-mail address, fax number).
How to Claim a Refund?
You may need to apply for a refund depending on the coverage offered in your home country versus that of the country in which you receive care. Some European health systems expect you to pay your bill when you are treated and then claim a refund using your EHIC. To find out what the requirements are of the country you are in, consult the country guide. Keep all receipts and paperwork to file a claim. Try to apply for reimbursement before leaving the country, or at least as soon as possible.
Have a story you would like to share about the EHIC? Do you have experience filing a reimbursement claim? Share it in the comment section below.