Everything you need to know about EHIC card

If you plan to travel to the UK, EEA, or EU countries, remember that something might happen to you. That is why it is important to have an EHIC with you.

Everything you need to know about EHIC card
Viktor Simunović, Dr.med.
Dr.med. Viktor Simunović
26 February 2024.

Traveling or living abroad is fun. Until you get sick. Depending on the healthcare system of a particular country, you can be charged a significant sum if you don't have health insurance. Luckily, we live in the European Union, which has a solution for this problem. It is called an EHIC card.

What is an EHIC card?

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is a free card that gives you access to medically necessary, state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in any of the 27 EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway (they are part of the Europen Economic Area), Switzerland and the United Kingdom. You get healthcare under the same conditions and at the exact cost (free in some countries) as people insured in that country.

It is not valid in non-EU countries like Turkey or the United States. However, non-EU nationals legally residing in the EU and covered by a state social security scheme are also eligible for a card. Still, they cannot use it in Denmark, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland.EHIC allows holders to receive medical treatment in these countries if they become ill or have an accident. It is essential to state that EHIC is not the same as travel insurance.

GHIC vs. EHIC – UK citizens after Brexit

As of 1 January 2021, EHIC cards are being phased out due to Brexit and are being replaced by GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card) for UK citizens. However, if you have an EHIC card, it will be valid until its expiry date. After it expires, you can apply for a GHIC, covering necessary healthcare from state services in the European Union.

The only difference between EHIC and GHIC is the countries they cover. GHIC only covers EU countries and does not cover Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland. Also, as EHIC, GHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance.

What does EHIC cover?

  1. Private medical healthcare or costs include mountain rescue in ski resorts or private hospital care.
  2. Costs of returning you to your home country (repatriation).
  3. Treatment that is not essential or can reasonably wait until you return home.
  4. Maternity care if you're explicitly going abroad to give birth.
  5. Dialysis or oxygen therapy is needed regularly unless pre-arranged before travel.
  6. Non-emergency treatments that you planned to have abroad.
  7. Any treatment or service not covered by the public health system in the country you're visiting.
  8. Dental care, except for emergency procedures.
  9. Costs if you travel with the purpose of receiving medical treatment abroad.

How to apply for EHIC?

  1. Go to the website of your country's health department. If you're a UK citizen, you can apply through the NHS website.
  2. Look for "European Health Insurance Card" or "EHIC" on the site and click on the link to the application.
  3. Fill out the application form. You must provide personal information such as your full name, date of birth, and National Insurance or NHS number.
  4. If you're applying for a child or other family members, you can add them to your application. Make sure you have their respective information ready.
  5. After filling out all the necessary information, double-check everything to ensure accuracy. Once you're sure, submit the application.
  6. After submission, the EHIC usually arrives in 7 to 10 days if you're in the UK. The processing time may vary if you're applying from other countries.
  7. Once you receive your card, keep it safe and always bring it when traveling to EEA countries or Switzerland.

The card is typically valid for 5 years. After this period, it must be renewed.

What to do if I lose my EHIC?

The first thing you should do is to report the loss. This is particularly important if you believe the card has been stolen to prevent misuse.

Then, request a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) and apply for a new card.

What happens if I don't have an EHIC card?

If you don't have a European Health Insurance Card, you might have to pay for medical treatment if you get sick or injured while traveling in Europe. Without the EHIC, you may not be entitled to state-provided healthcare. You could face high medical bills, especially if emergency medical transportation is required.

It's also important to note that travel insurance may not cover these costs either. Having the EHIC and a comprehensive travel insurance policy is always recommended.

EHIC is free, so use it

It is easy to obtain EHIC. Within a few minutes, you can apply for it online, and in a few days, it will arrive. EHIC guarantees that you will get the same treatment as citizens of the country you are traveling to. So when you are planning your trip, plan to get EHIC also.

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