European Health Insurance Card - all you need to know

A European Health Insurance Card entitles you to state health care in the European country you’re visiting on the same terms as a local resident.

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A European Health Insurance card, or EHIC, has always been a useful document to have as it allows you to access medical treatment in the EU when you’re on holiday.

Unlike in the UK, treatment may not be entirely free, but state medical care will at least be relatively cheap and far cheaper than going to a private doctor or hospital.

As well as sudden illness and injury, it also covers treatment for pre-existing medical problems if they suddenly flare up while you’re on holiday, as well as chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes.

However, as it stands, once we leave the EU – which is now expected to be no later than 31 October, 2019 - an EHIC will no longer be valid for UK citizens.

Instead, you’ll need to have a decent travel insurance policy in place to cover you – although it has always been best to have travel insurance as well as an EHIC, as it will cover you if you lose your belongings, if you had to cancel your holiday or if you had to be repatriated home (an EHIC will not cover you for this).

Who needs an EHIC?

If you’re going on holiday before 31 October, 2019, it can still be worth applying for an EHIC as it’s completely free. You’ll need to be aged 16 or over to apply and you’ll need one card for each person travelling.

For children under 16, a parent needs to apply for them when they fill out their own application and they will be given their own EHIC.

Be aware that it takes around seven to 10 working days to receive your EHIC, so make sure you apply in plenty of time. EHICs last for five years, after which time you’ll need to renew your card.

How do I apply for an EHIC?

You can apply for an EHIC online through the NHS Business Services Authority website. You can also apply over the phone by calling 0300 330 1350 or by filling in an application form and posting it to:

NHS Business Service Authority,
European Health Insurance Card,
EHIC applications,
Bridge House,
152 Pilgrim Street,
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE1 6SN

An EHIC is free of charge, so keep an eye out for websites that ask for payment when you apply and make sure you apply via the options above. Your application cannot be ‘fast-tracked’ so ignore websites offering this service.

You need to take your card with you when you pack for your holiday. If you’ve lost it you can call the EHIC line (0300 330 1350) to get a replacement. To call from abroad the number is 0044 191 218 1999.

The card can be used in 31 countries – all the 27 members of the European Union and a few others who aren’t members such as Switzerland and Iceland. A full list of all the countries where the EHIC is accepted is at the end of this article.

Not only will it give you free or seriously discounted medical treatment while you’re on holiday, an EHIC card could also save you money on your travel insurance.

Do I still need travel insurance if I have an EHIC?

Yes, the EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance. It will only cover you for emergency treatment while you’re away whereas travel insurance will also pay for you to fly home if you need to in a medical emergency. 

Travel insurance also covers you for a whole range of other problems such as lost or stolen baggage, if you lose cash, getting you back home in the event that your package holiday company or airline goes bust and if you have to cancel your trip.

If you’re doing risky sports such as scuba diving, you need travel insurance that includes cover for these activities.

Travel insurance isn’t expensive, particularly if you’re going to Europe, and medical treatment can be very pricey in America, so it’s best to make sure you have the right cover in place.

Remember too, that once the UK has left the EU your EHIC will no longer be valid, so travel insurance will be your only protection.

The countries covered by the EHIC

You should be treated for free or for the same cost as a local in a public hospital or under the state health system in:

 Austria

 Denmark

 Hungary

 Lithuania

 Portugal

 Switzerland

 Belgium

 Estonia

 Iceland

 Luxembourg

 Romania

 

 Bulgaria

 Finland

 Republic of  Ireland

 Malta

 Slovakia

 

 Croatia

 France

 Italy

 Netherlands

 Slovenia

 

 Southern Cyprus

 Germany

  Latvia

 Norway

 Spain

 

 Czech Republic

 Greece

 Liechtenstein

 Poland

 Sweden

 

 

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