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Date: 06/08/2013

European Health Insurance Card for Travellers to Europe

If you're heading off on holiday to Europe this year, better make sure you've packed your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). What's that? You don't have one? Well then, you'd better apply, because without one, you won't be eligible for reduced cost or free state healthcare in EEA countries.

Free to Apply

Applying for your EHIC couldn't be easier and it's totally free! You can use your card in any EEA country including Switzerland and you can apply online using the simple official EHIC application form, available on their website. Don't get confused though - you'll still need travel insurance in place to cover you and your family whilst on holiday; the EHIC isn't an alternative. It doesn't cover the cost of things like an air ambulance, repatriation or lost or stolen belongings.

The Benefits

You'll often find that many insurers will waive the excess on your travel insurance if you hold an EHIC. Anyone who is of British, EU or Swiss nationality can apply for a card and if you're of another nationality, you'll usually just need to provide evidence of your residence in the UK when applying.

Because healthcare systems are different in every country, you may not be covered for everything you would normally receive free of charge on the NHS and what is covered varies depending which country you're travelling to.

If you find your card won't be accepted as payment abroad, you may be able to claim a refund using your card when you return to the UK. Usually, you'll be covered for the following:

  • Emergency medical treatment should you become ill or have an accident, reduced cost or free medical treatment from state healthcare facilities
  • Any treatment for pre-existing conditions which flare up during a trip or routine maternity care (although it won't cover you if you are specifically going abroad to give birth.)
  • Unexpected births are covered and treatment/care will be provided free of charge or at a reduced charge for mother and baby).

Unfortunately, if state healthcare is unable to be provided in your destination, you will have to pay separately for private medical care.

Modern Technology

If you have an old E111 form, this is no longer valid and you'll need to re-apply online for your EHIC - each family member will need their own card, although children under 16 are not eligible. Even if you forget to take your card abroad with you, there's no need to worry, as you will still be covered - simply call the Overseas Healthcare Team and they will usually issue you with a temporary replacement card, which will be sent to your place of treatment and will cover your medical costs.

Make sure you travel safe this summer and don't forget to apply for your EHIC in plenty of time before you jet off to sunnier climes.