The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), formerly called E111 or E111 form, is a card you must apply for before travelling in another European Economic Area (EEA) country, or Switzerland. It gives you the right to access state-provided medical healthcare during a temporary stay, for free or at a reduced cost.
How much does it cost?
The EHIC is free of charge if you apply for it on the official website. Unofficial websites may charge various fees if you apply through them.
How long is it valid?
Its validity depends on your home country. In the UK, it is valid for 5 years, at the end of which you will need to apply for its renewal at least 6 months before its expiration date.
How does it work?
Using your EHIC card will allow you to access local treatment on the same basis as local residents. For instance, as most of the EEA countries provide free of charge healthcare, other countries expect from patient to contribute to a percentage towards the cost of their treatment, called co-payment or patient share. In those countries, you’ll have to pay the same percentage as local patients. Note that this share is non-refundable.
In some other case, you’ll be asked to pay in advance for a part or the entirety of the refundable share of your bill. In this case, make sure that you keep all receipts and any paperwork (make copies if necessary) that your home insurance may need to proceed to your refund when you apply for it at home.
It is important to note that some EEA countries do not provide very good healthcare. For that reason, make sure to get some information about the healthcare system of the country you travel to before you leave.
What does it cover?
The EHIC covers healthcare which is normally covered by statutory health care system in the visited country, but only treatment that is medically necessary for you to continue your stay abroad without returning home for medical care. It also covers care for chronic or pre-existing medical conditions that would become necessary during your visit, along with routine maternity care, but only if the treatments were not the initial reason for your visit.
For instance, it does not cover medical healthcare that can be delayed until you return, such as dental treatment, nor does it cover private medical care, such as mountain rescue, flow back to home country, lost and stolen property. It is also not valid on cruises. For that matter, it is not to be mistaken with travel insurance.
Note also that the EHIC does not cover any treatment that was specifically sought when travelling to the country. For instance, if you travel in order to get cheap medical healthcare or to give birth abroad, it won’t be covered by EHIC.
It is important to understand that the EHIC must not be mistaken with health insurance: it does not provide covering, but allows your home social security scheme to be valid abroad. Without health insurance, your EHIC won’t help.
Also, keep in mind that EHIC is made for temporary stays. If you plan on staying abroad for a long time, to live or work there, you will need to ask for a national insurance number and contract a proper health insurance.
In what countries are EHIC useful?
You can use your EHIC card in 32 countries, which are Switzerland and any European Economic Area (EEA) country (EU countries, along with Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway):
- Republic of Cyprus
- Czech Republic
- the UK
Note that some European countries still do not accept EHIC. These are the following:
- the Channel Island (including Guernsey, Alderney and Sark)
- the Isle of Man
- San Marino
- the Vatican
If travelling to one of these countries, make sure you have an adequate insurance before you travel.
Do I need to travel with my EHIC?
Ideally, yes. Still, if you happen to need medical care while travelling without your EHIC (if it’s lost or stolen for instance), you may be issued a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) in order to prove your entitlement to the EHIC. It will give you the same cover as your EHIC until you return home.
To apply for your PRC, you must call the Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999, Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm), providing:
- your National Insurance Number
- your full name
- your address
- your date of birth
- your NHS if possible
- the e-mail address or fax number of the specific department in the organisation that provides your care.
Note that you can ask someone else to do it on your behalf.
For any further information, please contact the EHIC enquiry line on 0300 330 1350.