If you haven’t got one yet and you’re off to Europe on your summer or winter holidays, or for a city break, the European Health Insurance Card – aka EHIC – needs to be on your radar
It’s really handy and completely free for the whole family.
At a glance
- It is a completely free card to give you discounted or free healthcare across the EU
- Each member of your family will need their own card
- They don't take the place of travel insurance which covers a lot more
Here’s what it can do for you and yours…
What is a European Health Insurance Card?
A European Health Insurance Card, or EHIC, is a must-have if you’re travelling in Europe. It replaces the old E111 form (which was abolished in 2006), and basically entitles you to discounted (and sometimes free!) healthcare in hospitals and doctors surgeries across the EU.
It works differently depending on which country you’re in. If the locals get free medical treatment, so will you. If they pay for it, you’ll pay exactly the same as they do.
All 27 of the EU member states participate, plus some extras, like Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. You can check out a full country-by-country breakdown of what you get where on the NHS website.
How do I go about getting an EHIC?
You can apply for a European Health Insurance card free of charge on the EHIC website, or over the phone – call 0300 330 1350 to speak to someone who can help.
Just make sure you use the official website, and don’t be fooled by sites claiming they can get your cards to you quicker than the EHIC people for a fee – they can’t.
Each family member has to have their own card, too. You can apply for the kids on your own form – just list them as dependants.
What do I do with the card when I’m on holiday?
You need to keep your family’s cards on you at all times when you’re on holiday. Otherwise, you won’t be covered. Even if you’re just popping out for some ice cream – tuck the cards away safely in your beach bag.
Do we still need travel insurance if we have an EHIC?
Yes. Although EHIC cards are really handy, they don’t take the place of travel insurance, which covers a lot more besides medical stuff, like delays and baggage loss.
The card will simply get you in to state-run (not private) hospitals, and you could still have to pay a fairly big fee in some spots in the EU. This is where your travel insurance comes in – it’ll cover the fee, and if you’re using an EHIC card, you probably won’t have to pay excess.
Just so you know, you may have to claim your money back later.
The EHIC gives you access to free healthcare in some places, but not all. In others, you might need to pay and either reclaim the cash while you’re there, or once you get back home. So make sure you keep every single receipt handy!
The NHS country guide will tell you what you can get where if you’re not sure.