The European Health Insurance Card - free or reduced cost health treatment
A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles you to reduced-cost, sometimes free, medical treatment if it becomes necessary while you’re in a country of the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland. The EHIC is normally valid for three to five years and is not an alternative to travel insurance.
Where can you use your EHIC card?
An EHIC card is valid in the following countries:
Austria, Hungary, Netherlands, Belgium, Iceland, Norway, Cyprus (but not Northern Cyprus), Ireland, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Portugal, Denmark, Latvia, Slovakia, Estonia, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Finland, Lithuania, Spain, France, Luxembourg, Sweden, Germany, Malta, Switzerland* and Greece.
*Switzerland applies the EHIC arrangements through an agreement with the EU.
What does the EHIC cover?
The EHIC covers any medical treatment that becomes necessary during your trip because of either illness or an accident. The card gives access to state-provided medical treatment only and you'll be treated on the same basis as an 'insured' person living in the country you're visiting. Remember, this might not cover all the things you'd expect to get free of charge from the NHS in the UK - you may have to make a contribution to the cost of your care.
The EHIC also covers any treatment you need for a chronic disease or pre-existing illness. For example, you need to make arrangements in advance for kidney dialysis and oxygen therapy. To arrange for kidney dialysis while you're away, contact your NHS renal unit in the UK before you travel. For limited information on oxygen supply services in the EEA countries and Switzerland, call the Department of Health's Customer Service Centre on 02072 104850.
Remember that the EHIC won't cover you if getting medical treatment is the main purpose of your trip. You are advised to take out comprehensive private insurance for visits to all countries, regardless of whether you are covered by your EHIC.
Who is eligible for an EHIC?
People who are ordinarily resident in the UK are entitled to a UK-issued EHIC. It is not valid for people who are going to live abroad.
There are some restrictions, depending on your nationality:
• UK and other EU nationals, stateless persons and refugees are covered in all EEA countries and Switzerland. However, if you are a national of Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, your EHIC is not valid in Switzerland.
• People who do not have UK, EU, EEA or Swiss nationality are covered in all EU countries but not in Denmark, Norway, Liechtenstein or Switzerland. In Iceland, these people are covered for emergency treatment only.
• Dependants of EEA nationals who are ordinarily resident in the UK are covered in all EEA countries and Switzerland, irrespective of their own nationality.
For further information or to apply for a card online, visit the NHS website.
Main image: EU Single Market, author Rob984. Resized and added blurred edges to fill wider aspect ratio. Available here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence.