European Health Insurance Card – EHIC

About the European Health Insurance Card

If you’re travelling to mainland Europe don’t forget to apply for your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). It gives you access to state healthcare in European Economic Area nations, plus Switzerland, free or at a reduced price, until you get back home to Britain.

The card gives you the same treatment as a resident of the country you’re visiting. Unlike travel insurance the card covers pre-existing medical conditions and routine maternity care, as long as you’re not travelling abroad specifically to give birth.

Do you still need travel insurance?

Your EHIC doesn’t include private medical care, the cost of rescuing you if you’re stuck half way up a mountain or down a cave, the price of being flown back home in an air ambulance – which can be enormous – or any property you lose. Travel insurance is still essential.

To cover all the bases, you need travel insurance and an EHIC. In fact many travel insurers insist on an EHIC and will reduce your travel insurance excess as a result.

How to apply

You can apply online, call the special automated service on 0300 330 1350 or download an application form.

IMPORTANT – Be aware of rip-offs – EHICs are free

Some unofficial websites charge for EHICs. These are rip-offs. The EHIC is completely free, as are card renewals, and there’s no need to pay anyone for it. Apply on the official government website via the link above and it won’t cost you a penny.

The details

  • Every family member needs an EHIC
  • The main applicant must usually live in the UK and be originally from the UK, EU or Switzerland
  • The main applicant can apply on behalf of their partner and dependent children aged 19 or less and in full-time education
  • If you’re under 16 someone older has to apply for you. If you’re at boarding school, a teacher can do it
  • To apply, you provide your name, date of birth and NI or NHS number. Temporary numbers are no good
  • People who live in the Channel Islands or on the Isle of Man can’t get an EHIC
  • If you get a UK state pension and live in the EU, you might be able to get an EHIC issued in Britain. It depends on your circumstances, and the NHS website contains good advice
  • The card usually arrives by post within 7 days but it’s better safe than sorry, so apply in good time before you depart

What can you claim on your EHIC?

Every country has a different state healthcare system. In some countries you might have to make a financial contribution to your care. Visit the NHS website for details about what you can claim in each country.

More details about what’s covered and what isn’t

  • If you have a medical emergency in the EU, call the EU’s emergency number 112, not 999
  • Your EHIC covers the medical tratment you need during your trip, including illnesses and accidents
  • If you need oxygen or kidney dialysis, it’s covered. But you’ll need to pre-book them before you leave. Make sure you book with a state provider not a private clinic – private care isn’t covered on the card
  • If you need routine medical care for an existing condition that needs monitoring, it’s included
  • If you’re a healthcare tourist, your treatment isn’t covered
  • If state healthcare isn’t available at your destination, you can’t use your EHIC
  • You’re protected from the date you applied for your card
  • If you travel without it and need treatment, you can get a Provisional Replacement Certificate, sent straight to the place you’re being treated. The same goes if your card is lost or stolen
  • Some countries ask you to pay for treatment and claim it back later. It’s a good idea to apply for your refund before you leave the country you’re being treated in. Don’t forget to keep all your receipts and other paperwork to make your claim go smoothly

Once you’ve lined up an EHIC and good travel insurance, you should be covered financially against more or less any medical eventuality in the EU. Without them, if you need treatment you’ll have to pay for it yourself.