A Guide to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for healthcare in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries.
Advice on travel with a disability or pre existing medical condition.
Everyone who is resident in the UK should have an EHIC and carry it with them when travelling abroad. Remember to check your EHIC is still valid before you travel. Applying for the card is free and it’s valid for up to five years in all European Economic Area countries.(EEA).
Presenting the EHIC entitles you to treatment that may become necessary during your trip, but doesn’t allow you to go abroad specifically to receive medical care. However, maternity care, renal dialysis and managing the symptoms of pre-existing or chronic conditions that arise while abroad are all covered by the EHIC.
Your EHIC will allow you access to the same state-provided healthcare as a resident of the country you are visiting. However, many countries expect the patient to pay towards their treatment, and even with an EHIC, you might be expected to do the same. You may be able to seek reimbursement for this cost when you are back in the UK if you are not able to do so in the other country.
Travel Insurance for pre existing medical conditions and European Health Insurance Card Differences:
The EHIC is NOT an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or the cost of things such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, repatriation to the UK or lost or stolen property.
Why you need travel insurance for pre-existing medical conditions (disabled travel insurance): When going on holiday, you may not think about becoming ill through a pre existing condition or disability, but last year a record number of travellers needed medical treatment abroad. If you have pre existing medical conditions, you could have to go into hospital for one of those conditions, require emergency treatment or require additional medication. Make sure you are covered by disabled travel insurance when travelling or on holiday abroad.
For the above reasons and others, it is important to have both an EHIC and a valid private travel insurance policy. Some insurers now insist you hold an EHIC and many will waive the excess if you have one. You also obviously need good comprehensive travel insurance when travelling anywhere in the world and you should check you are covered for the countries you visit..
Applying for an EHIC is easy. Even if you don’t have any plans to travel in the near future, it is always a good idea to get one.
Applying and renewing
Remember to check your EHIC is still valid before you travel. The easiest and most efficient way to apply for an EHIC is online through the Department of Health (DH) official website. Applying for the card is free. Renew or apply for your free EHIC and go abroad knowing you are prepared for all eventualities.
Applying for an EHIC
There are several ways to apply for a free EHIC but the quickest way is to apply online through the Department of Health’s official website. Your card will normally arrive within seven days. You can also apply by phone on 0845 606 2030 or by post using an application form available from some post offices.
Your application can be just for yourself or you can apply on behalf of your partner and any dependent children in full-time education under the age of 19. If you are under 16, a parent or guardian will need to apply for you. Boarding school teaching staff can also apply on behalf of any children in their care.
Each person you’re applying for will need to provide his or her:
- full name,
- date of birth, and
- National Insurance or NHS number (CHI in Scotland or Health and Care Number in Northern Ireland).
Most people can apply online or by phone but you will need to apply by post in the following circumstances:
- If you are not a national of the UK, EEA or Switzerland.
- If you are studying abroad.
- If you are already working abroad but remain UK employed or self employed.
- If you need to update your personal details or add a dependant, speak to the EHIC enquiries team on 0845 605 0707.
- If you receive a state pension or other long-term benefit from the UK and live in an EU member state.
- If you are dependent on a citizen working in the UK and live in an EU member state.
Renewing an EHIC
You can apply for a new EHIC up to six months before the expiry date however any time left on your EHIC is not added to your new card. An EHIC is valid for five years. The easiest way to apply for your free EHIC is online. Alternatively, phone 0845 606 2030.
You can also apply by post. An application pack is available from some post offices. However, postal applications will take longer.
TIP: Remember to check the expiry date on your EHIC before you start travelling.
Replacing an EHIC
If you need to replace a lost EHIC, call 0845 606 2030.
If your EHIC is lost or stolen while you are abroad, you (or someone on your behalf) should apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC), which will provide you with the same cover as an EHIC until you return home. To do so, call the Overseas Healthcare Team (Newcastle) on 0044 (0)191 218 1999. It’s a good idea to save this number in your phone. (Monday – Friday, 8am – 5pm)
To get a PRC you will need to provide your name, address, date of birth and National Insurance/NHS number (CHI in Scotland or Health and Care Number in Northern Ireland).
Using an EHIC
Each country’s healthcare system is slightly different, so your EHIC might not cover everything that would be free on the NHS.
For example, some state-run hospitals in Europe have ambulance services that are privately operated, meaning you would be liable to pay for your ambulance journey. Often you will be offered the choice between private and state-provided care.
To avoid unnecessary private medical bills, always seek out state-provided medical care, and whenever possible present your EHIC before treatment. You will need to be particularly careful if the arrangements have been made by a hotel or travel representative as sometimes they will recommmend a private healthcare provider. You should also always carry details of your travel insurance policy with you.
Some European health systems expect you to pay your bill upfront and then claim a refund using your EHIC. You should always try to apply for your refund before you return home. See the information for the country you are visiting for details of how to do this. Should you need to make a claim once you return to the UK call the Overseas Healthcare Team (Newcastle), 0191 218 1999 (Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm)
TIP:Remember to keep all receipts and any paperwork (make copies if necessary) as they might be needed by you or your insurance company to apply for any refund or reimbursement.
What does the EHIC cover?
- It will cover any medical treatment that becomes necessary during your stay because of either illness or an accident.
- The card gives access to reduced-cost or free medical treatment from state healthcare providers.
- It allows you to be treated on the same basis as a resident of the country you are visiting i.e. you may have to pay a patient contribution (also known as a co-payment). You may be able to seek reimbursement for this when you are back in the UK if you are not able to do so in the other country.
- It includes treatment of a chronic or pre-existing medical condition that becomes necessary during your visit.
- It includes routine maternity care, (provided the reason for your visit is not specifically to give birth).
- It includes the provision of oxygen, renal dialysis and routine medical care.
What won’t the EHIC cover me for?
The EHIC is not a substitute or replacement for private travel insurance. You should always take out an appropriate private policy in addition to carrying your EHIC.
- It will not cover the costs of private healthcare or services that are not part of the state healthcare system.
- It will not cover the costs of being brought back to the UK.
- It will not allow you to go abroad to specifically receive treatment (including going abroad to give birth).
- The card may not be used in some regions, as there may be no state provided healthcare available.
The new EU regulations that came into effect from May 1 – 2010
Due to changes in European Union regulations, from May 1 2010 the United Kingdom may be responsible for the issue of your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) instead of the member state where you live.
This will apply if you are a national of an EU member state and live in an EU member state, and you either:
- receive your state pension or other long-term benefit from the UK and you have registered the form E121 with the health authorities in the member state where you live; or
- you are dependent on a citizen working in the UK and have registered the form E109 issued by the UK
You will need to send your application by post. An application form, along with an explanatory letter, will be posted to you during February 2010. This application form will be different from the EHIC application form available in the UK, and will be modified to prove your entitlement to the new UK-issued EHIC card.
These cards will be sent out from April 2010 onwards. If you return your completed application form by the end of March 2010, your card should arrive before the new regulations come into force.
If you are not a national of an EU member state, or you live in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, then the country where you live will remain responsible for issuing your EHIC. In these circumstances, please contact the authorities in your country of residence.