European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) – Do you need it?

You’ve heard of the word ‘EHIC’ being thrown around when booking your European getaway but what is it, do you need one, how do you get hold of it? Carry on reading for more information.

What is it?

The European Health Insurance Card enables you to receive reduced cost and sometimes free state-provided healthcare during your holiday or trip when travelling in a European Economic Area including Switzerland.

By presenting the card to the healthcare provider you will be entitled to receive the same treatment given to the locals at the same cost (which is sometimes free).

Do you need one?

It is recommended to take one with you when travelling to Europe. Most travel insurers will insist that you hold a valid EHIC and will even waive the medical excess if you used it whilst getting treatment.

What does the EHIC cover?

You will be covered for treatment in a state-provided hospital up until you return home to the UK. It also covers pre-existing conditions and maternity care.

Please note that you are not covered if your reason for your visit is to give birth or to receive medical treatment.

So why travel insurance as well?

The European Health Insurance Card is not a replacement for travel insurance.

The EHIC, although will cover you for the medical treatment abroad in Europe, won’t cover you for emergency medical expenses provided by private hospitals. In some countries, specifically Spain, some state-provided hospitals are some distance away and you don’t have a choice but to be treated privately. You could be left with a hefty bill.

The EHIC will also not cover costs such as mountain rescue in ski resorts or being flown back to the UK.

How do you get hold of one?

You can apply for one online via the official EHIC website or by calling the EHIC Application Line on 0300 330 1350. You may prefer to download an application form and return it by post.

Make sure you have the full name, date of birth and National Insurance or NHS number for each applicant. You will need to apply for an EHIC for each family member.

You must remember to check that your EHIC is still valid before you travel. They expire  up to 5 years after the issue date.