What is an EHIC card and why do you need one?

Ambulance

EHIC is a European Health Insurance Card. You need one when you travel overseas within the EEA because it gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare on temporary stays in other European Economic Area countries and Switzerland at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free.

The EHIC will cover immediate and clinically necessary state-funded treatment until your planned return home to the UK.

What health treatments does the EHIC cover?

Not all countries operate in the same way as the NHS. For some treatments you may be told to pay a contribution to the cost of care.

See the country by country guide to compare differences.

In an emergency, you can dial the European emergency number 112 from any telephone or mobile phone.

The EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs, such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK, and lost or stolen property. Some travel insurers now insist you hold an EHIC.

You can’t plan treatment abroad and then be covered by EHIC. It is an insurance card, not a discount scheme.

Here’s a summary of what EHIC covers

  • The the right to access state-provided healthcare on temporary stays at a reduced cost or, in many cases, for free. This includes treatment of a chronic or pre-existing medical condition that becomes necessary during your visit.
  • Routine maternity care (not only because of illness or an accident), as long as you’re not going abroad to give birth. However, if the birth happens unexpectedly, the EHIC will cover the cost of all medical treatment for mother and baby that is linked to the birth.
  • The provision of oxygen and kidney dialysis, although you will have to arrange and pre-book these treatments before you go on holiday. You can ask your GP or hospital for advice, but make sure you are not booked with a private healthcare provider, as these are not covered by the EHIC.
  • Routine medical care for people with pre-existing conditions that need monitoring.

 

There have also been cases in the past of health systems not honouring EHIC to pay for treatment. Separate travel insurance is advised with medical cover, if you have conditions that are likely to require treatment during your holiday.

How to apply for an EHIC

You can apply online. Each card applies to one person. You cannot use one card for the whole family.

Apply online here.