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 reduced cost or any many cases free treatment should it become necessary whilst travelling abroad. It does NOT allow you to go abroad specifically to receive medical care. However, kidney 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.
Please also note that if you have been prescribed medication by your doctor and it contains a 'controlled drug', you may need to take a doctors note with you when you travel, which will need to include:-
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.
You may renew your EHIC up to 6 months before it expires, however any time remaining on the card will not be added to the new card.
How will BREXIT affect the EHIC?
The UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020. From 1 February until 31 December 2020, there will be a transition period.
During this time, nothing will change in regards to your usage of the EHIC.
The UK government has warned that the EHIC card may no longer be valid after 31 December 2020, but much will depend on negotiations between the UK, the EU and member states during the transition period.
The UK government has however clarified that certain people will still be able to use the EHIC after 31 December 2020. These are:-
Don't have an EHIC card? Click Here to apply or renew an EHIC Card