European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
The EHIC (or European Health Insurance Card) replaced the old Forms E110, E111, E119 and E128 and allows any person who is either covered or insured by an EEA country (or Switzerland)’s statutory social security scheme to be treated at a medical facility within other member states at either a reduced cost or free of charge should they become ill or have an accident during their stay, or require care for an ongoing chronic pre-existing medical condition. The EHIC card is issued without any cost to the applicant and its term of validity will vary depending on the country issuing the document.
Overview of the EHIC
The point of the European Health Insurance Card is to enable travelers to remain in the country that they are visiting without the need to go back to their home country to receive medical treatment. However the document does not cover anyone who has gone to another member state specifically to obtain medical care or any form of treatment that could safely be delayed until the card holder has returned home. Only treatments which would be covered in normal circumstances by the visited country’s statutory healthcare system can be received for free or reduced cost under the system and therefore it is still important to obtain travel insurance too.
The EHIC card was introduced on 1st June 2004 and had become the sole entitlement document to healthcare in member states by 1st January 2006. It can be used in all parts of the EEA including overseas French departments like French Guiana, Martinique, Reunion and Guadeloupe, however it cannot be used in any non-EEA dependent territory such as the Isle of Man, Jersey, French Polynesia or Aruba. There are, however, agreements in place which enable the EHIC card to be used in Greenland and the Faroe Islands, despite the fact that neither of the above are part of the EEA.
The European Health Insurance Card gives European citizens the right to healthcare across the member states based on their country of legal residence rather than their country of citizenship. It is for this reason that a passport is not accepted as a right to receive reduced or free treatment. However, a photographic form of identification may also need to be produced as the EHIC contains no photo.
There are some circumstances in which a person who may be covered by an EU country’s health insurance is still not eligible to receive an EHIC. One such example is citizens of Romania, who must have already been insured for 5 years before being eligible to receive the document.
If you are planning on travelling abroad within the EEA area, you should always apply for an EHIC before heading off. This document enables British citizens to access basic treatment for medical conditions should they fall ill or have an accident when outside of their own country and staying within the EEA or Switzerland. This document covers all emergency treatment and treatments for any chronic or pre-existing conditions as well as provision of oxygen and dialysis (although this should be booked before travelling) and maternity care in the majority of cases.
The card is issued for free and remains valid for 5 years. Should you have a medical emergency when travelling in Europe, it can be used by dialing 112 and then by showing the valid card at the hospital. Having adequate travel insurance is also very important however, as the EHIC does not have offer such comprehensive cover as a high quality travel insurance policy.
Applicants can apply online for the EHIC document 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is also possible to take advantage of an auto-renewal reminder before the card expires, receive updates about your application and have your details verified and checked before submission for a nominal fee.
The healthcare given under the terms of the card is the same as that given to any resident of that country and depending on the country’s policies, that treatment may be either free or given at a reduced fee. Should you have to make a co-payment towards the cost of care, this money can sometimes be reclaimed upon returning to the UK.