An EHIC or European Health Insurance Card is a free card that entitles the holder to free or subsidized state medical care in EEA countries. The EHIC not only covers treatment for medical situations that originate while you are out of the UK, but it can also be used for chronic conditions that existed prior to travelling.
It is important to remember that while an EHIC is certainly a useful thing to have, it is not an alternative to travel insurance. This is because there are a range of scenarios that the EHIC will not cover, for example, mountain rescue or theft.
The Advantages of an EHIC
the main advantage of an EHIC is that it entitles you to free or subsidised medical treatment abroad. This means that should anything untoward happen to you, providing you seek medical attention from a state medical institution, you will not be hit with large bills.
The EHIC card is accepted in a number of popular destinations. Indeed, the European Health Insurance Card is valid in all EEA countries. This includes all the EU, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Iceland and Norway.
EHIC cards are free and easy to apply for.
How to Apply
There are three ways by which you can apply for an EHIC. You can either apply online via the official EHIC website or you can apply over the phone. In addition, you can print an EHIC form from the NHS website which you can then post back to the NHS.
Be wary of third-party vendors which claim that they can get you an EHIC quicker and will help you fill out the form. These vendors will charge a fee for their service and you will not get the card any quicker than you would if you do the form yourself. In terms of assistance, the form itself is very simple to fill out and should you require any assistance there is an official telephone number that you can call.
Once you have completed you application, it usually takes up to 10 days to receive your EHIC.
Things to Remember
- When visiting abroad it is vital that you keep your EHIC on you at all times. If you do not have the card, you will not be covered. However, in the case of emergencies where you do not have your card on you, you may be able to get a provisional certificate.
- Sometimes you will have to wait until you are back in the UK to pay for a treatment you received abroad or to claim back money for treatment that you paid for while abroad.
- EHICs do expire. Therefore, it is vital that you make sure your card is up to date.
- Even if your child is under 16, they will need their own EHIC