The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows access to state-provided healthcare in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries & Switzerland at a reduced fee or sometimes free of charge.
Residents in the United Kingdom should have this card and take it with them when travelling abroad. Remember to check your card hasn’t expired before you travel. Applying for the card is free and is valid for up to 5 years.
Showing your EHIC card entitles you to treatment eventualities should they become necessary whilst abroad- It does NOT allow you to go abroad specifically to receive medical care. However, renal dialysis, maternity care, and symptoms of pre-existing or chronic conditions that arise while abroad are all covered by the EHIC.
Your card will give you access to the same state healthcare as it would a resident of the country you are visiting. However, many countries expect the patient to pay towards their treatment, even with an EHIC, you might be expected to do the same. You may be able to seek reimbursement costs when you are back in the United Kingdom if you are not able to do so in the other country.
The EHIC is NOT an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or the cost of things such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, repatriation to the UK or lost or stolen property. For these reasons and others, it is important to have both an EHIC and a valid private travel insurance policy. Some insurers now insist you hold an EHIC and many will waive the excess if you have one.
Applying for an EHIC is easy. Even if you don’t have any plans to travel in the near future, it is always a good idea to get one.
Dont have an EHIC card? Click Here to apply or renew an EHIC Card
UPDATE June 2013 - There have been recent stories in the media that suggest travellers are being told that the EHIC card is not valid and that they will have to pay to have emergency treatment. For further information, please see the following links