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European Health Insurance card (EHIC)

EHIC Applications and renewals

European-Health-Insurance-Card

If you are due to go overseas on holiday, it’s a very good idea to look at getting a European Health Insurance Card before you go. But what is an EHIC, and why do you need one?

The European Health Insurance Card allows British people to obtain basic medical treatment. If you become ill outside your own country, providing you are in the European Economic Area or Switzerland, you will be covered. Once you have an E111 / EHIC, it will cover emergency treatment, and also any treatments you need if you have a pre-existing or chronic condition. The EHIC it will also cover the provision of dialysis and oxygen although this usually needs to be booked in advance, plus maternity care in most cases.

Services
Our Site
NHS
Online Application Service for EHIC (Formerly E111)
Yes
Yes
Auto-Renewal Reminder prior to card expiration
Yes
No
Online Apply feature available 24/7
Yes
No
Email and Phone Application Updates
Yes
No
Details checked for errors and verified prior to submission
Yes
No
Service Fee
£24.50
No

The healthcare you can expect will be the normal provision offered by the state in the country you are in. In other words, you’ll receive treatment on the same terms as a resident of that country. Depending on the policies in that country the healthcare may be free or it may be offered to you at a reduced cost. You can get more information on how to obtain a European Health Insurance Card and the likely costs on the NHS website.

If you are asked to make a contribution (also known as a ‘co-payment’) towards your care, you can sometimes claim this back when you return to the UK.

How much does an EHIC cost?
European health insurance cards are free and can be obtained easily online. Once you have your free E111 / EHIC card, it will be valid for five years. You can order it through various websites that charge a fee. These sites offer a checking service to ensure that the correct information is submitted to the NHS and often offer helpful advice to help you obtain an EHIC renewal. Any website which promises an ‘express’ or ‘faster’ service to provide or renew the card should be avoided as no such service exists.

How do I use my EHIC?
If you experience a medical emergency, dial 112 anywhere in Europe. This number works in any country and on any phone. Show your EHIC card when you visit the hospital; the staff will ensure your details are taken.

When can’t I use the EHIC?
The EHIC is designed to provide basic state medical care and are not a substitute substitute for good-quality medical insurance or travel insurance. For example, if you were to become stranded when skiing, the EHIC would not cover the costs of your rescue.

If you travel overseas specifically to have a baby, or you pre-plan for your baby to be born while you are overseas, the EHIC will not cover the cost and you will need additional paperwork. It’s also highly advisable to take out travel insurance in this situation, just in case there are any complications.

To apply for an EHIC go to the apply page.

 

Will Brexit Affect EHIC?

The European Health Insurance Card, commonly abbreviated to EHIC, is a reciprocal arrangement between countries of the European Economic Area which allows card holders to access state healthcare across Europe on the same basis as residents of the countries they are visiting. EHIC can lower the cost of your travel insurance policy and can help those with pre-existing or chronic medical conditions travel overseas. But the recent referendum vote to leave the EU has thrown the whole system into doubt.

The Current Situation

As the situation stands, the UK has not begun the process to trigger leaving the European Union, and there is no indication as to when this might happen. At the moment, everything is carrying on exactly as it was before the Brexit vote at the end of June. That means that if you have a winter sun holiday planned for the coming months, or even for next year, your entitlement to EHIC is unchanged. Continue to apply for new EHIC cards, take them with you when you travel overseas, show them to foreign doctors and hospitals and apply to renew them if they are about to expire. Know your rights; don’t be fobbed off by a European hospital telling you that your EHIC is no longer accepted in the wake of Brexit.

The Future

Just as with many other issues regarding the UK’s relationship with the EU, there is still a lot of confusion around whether EHIC will still be valid one the UK leaves the EU. There is precedent for this as there are countries such as Iceland and Switzerland who are not in the EU, but still part of the EHIC system. This may be the sort of arrangement which the UK government tries to negotiate with the rest of the countries which are part of the EEA. Remember too that it is in the interest of our European neighbours to reach an agreement with the UK as it’s not only British people holidaying in Greece or Spain who make use of EHIC, it’s Italian, French and German tourists in the UK too. Even if the UK cannot negotiate to stay in the EHIC system, there is the possibility of negotiating reciprocal healthcare on a country by country basis. There are agreements already in place with countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Barbados to treat each other’s citizens, and there is nothing stopping the UK entering similar agreements with European countries. The only issue may be the time required to complete the negotiations.

Traveller Advice

At present, the advice is very much to carry on as usual. EHIC remains in place until the UK triggers the process to leave the EU, and as the exit process will take 2 years, EHIC isn’t disappearing any time soon. Keep an eye on the news, follow websites for travel and financial advice on the implications of all aspects of Brexit, and if it is announced at some point in the future that EHIC will no longer be valid, check that your travel insurance meets all of your needs.