Guide to the European Health Insurance Card when travelling…

The European Health Insurance Card, or EHIC for short, is something that every single citizen of the UK ought to have if they wish to travel to Europe. It is a card that covers your emergency health care in the European country you are at the moment; but keep in mind that not all the European countries are included in this – only the countries of the European Economic Area plus Switzerland. That means that all of the 27 EU countries are included, as well as Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway.

  1. Who Can Get This Card?

This card is something that’s available to the most of the UK citizens, except the citizens of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

If you are over the age of 16, you can apply for the card yourself, while if you’re under that age, your guardians will have to do that for you. It is important to note that every single travel party member must have their own EHIC!

2. How To Get It and What’s the Cost?

The application for the card goes through the NHS website or a third party EHIC service (myEHIC), and it is important to note that the card is completely free! It takes about a week for the application to get processed, and after that, you’ll receive your card by mail. Keep in mind that the card is only valid for 5 years, and before that time’s up, you’ll have to apply for a renewal.

3. Can This Card be an Alternative to Travel Insurance?

No, this card is not equal to travel insurance, and many people don’t seem to understand that. The very fact that you have an EHIC does not entitle you to free care, it just entitles you to the same state medical care that is being provided to any citizen of the country you are in, and this is different from one country to another. Also, this card does not entitle you to be treated in any of the private hospitals, only the state-run ones.

Is also important to note that the EHIC won’t get you a free ride home by an air ambulance following an accident; that is something you’ll have to pay out of your own pocket.

This why people should complement their travel insurance with this card, and not replace it with it. EHIC should be considered a part of the travel preparations, and seeing how it’s free, everyone should get it. It will help you while you’re abroad, and although it might not always give you a completely free medical care, it is going to get you a discount. However, the downside to it is the fact that some countries expect their patients to pay for their medical services, which is then later repatriated to them. You can’t expect that money to be repatriated to you back in the UK.

It is always better to have some kind of an insurance that covers repatriation as well as medical treatment. But, for the smaller injuries, you can just visit a state hospital with an EHIC in your hand, and you ought to be fine.

Matt Raymond