Were you aware that, in recent years, more than 10,000 UK travellers have ended up having to frantically chase up the necessary paperwork to cover the costs of medical treatment in the EU? Due to internationally recognised agreements, UK citizens are fortunate that most of the time they don’t have to pay the full cost of any medical treatment they require whilst travelling in the EU and some of the countries beyond it. This is an incredibly handy benefit to have, often saving people thousands of pounds in medical costs. That said, to take advantage of the free medical treatment, an EHIC card is essential.
What is an EHIC Application?
An EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) is a card which shows that an individual is eligible for free treatment at the point of delivery in an EU country and some other countries. If you suffer an accident or have a chronic disease which flares up, you will need to show your EHIC card to the hospital or doctor when you arrive, so that the right paperwork can be put in place to waive the usual costs you would expect to pay.
Note that in some countries you may still have to make a co-payment for medical treatment. This means that although some of the cost is covered through EHIC, you will still have to pay part of the bill. The amount you will have to pay depends on the country you’re visiting and is in line with what citizens in that country have to pay.
For example, in Croatia, Croatian nationals pay a nominal amount for each night they spend in hospital, as well as having compulsory insurance. A British citizen staying in a Croatian hospital would also be required to pay that nominal amount. Conversely, in the UK, treatment is free at the point of delivery in hospitals or GPs surgeries, so an EU national with an EHIC card would not be charged. If they visited an NHS UK dentist and had a filling, for example, they would need to pay the NHS standing charge for a filling procedure (£53.90).
If you are putting in a European health card application with a view to visiting a particular country, it’s worth finding out what charges you may be expected to pay (if any) in the event that you require medical treatment. This will avoid any unpleasant financial surprises further down the line. The charges may extend not just to hospital stays and doctors’ appointments, but also to dental costs and prescription costs.
What does an EHIC Application cover?
Once your EHIC application has been approved, your EHIC cover usually extends to the following:
– emergency ambulance service.
– treatment of an accident or emergency whilst you are travelling abroad in an eligible country.
– treatment of a chronic condition which has worsened or become unstable whilst you are away.
– anti-natal treatment in some circumstances.
Treatment may be carried out by a variety of medical professionals, including doctors, surgeons, dentists, pharmacists and nursing staff. Not all conditions and situations are covered through EHIC. Cosmetic surgery procedures for example, aren’t usually covered. If in doubt, it’s wise to check with your medical provider before accepting treatment.
Remember to use a public sector medical provider
The treatment that you receive must have been given by a public sector provider, or one that’s authorised to deliver state-funded medical treatment. The exact set-up for this varies from country to country: usually countries have a mixture of public sector doctors and hospitals, clinical settings which are entirely private and those which deliver a combination of public and private sector treatment. If you are intending to apply for EHIC card provision in advance of visiting a country where it is accepted, make sure you are aware of which medical treatment centres accept EHIC. In some countries, particularly if a third party arranges for your medical care, you may inadvertently end up being sent to a private facility. Private treatment is not funded through the EHIC scheme.
If you apply for EHIC, what isn’t covered?
– Routine surgery (unless required due to an exacerbation of an existing condition or an emergency) isn’t usually covered. As stated early, cosmetic surgery also isn’t covered (although some plastic surgery may be: for example, a skin graft following an accidental burn).
– The EHIC does not cover any treatment undertaken at a private medical facility or by a private medical practitioner.
– EHIC also doesn’t cover additional treatment on top of what a citizen from the country you are receiving treatment in could expect to have. Although EU healthcare is almost universally good, it may well be the case that treatment protocols vary from what you might expect to receive in the UK. Even if the treatment is different to the treatment you would get in the UK, if it is what a national from that country would receive then that is all that EHIC will fund.
– Repatriation costs. EHIC does not cover your return travel costs to the UK. This may mean that you will need to rebook flights or ferry tickets. In the event that a specialist ambulance (including an air ambulance) is required to transport you home, you will need to pay for it. Many people take out additional travel insurance to cover them in this eventuality.
– In some cases, the costs of rescue (for example, mountain or cave rescue) aren’t covered. If you are planning an adventurous holiday where an accident in an inaccessible location is a possibility, it is advisable to take out additional travel insurance to protect yourself and your family.
– EHIC cover is limited to care in the first three months of visiting a country. After three months the EHIC will not cover further medical treatment during the course of your visit.
Does an EHIC Application cover my healthcare if I am resident in another EU country?
The rules around eligibility for continued healthcare vary from country to country. Generally, for the first three months of your visit to a country that is part of the European Health Insurance scheme, you will be covered by EHIC. This means that you will only pay the same healthcare costs as any other citizen of that country. Usually, if you have been resident in a country for more than three months, you will need to start paying into their healthcare system in order to continue to receive healthcare. Your EHIC will no longer cover you. In some countries, your employer (if you are employed there) will pay the necessary contributions for you to continue to receive state-funded healthcare. Alternatively, your employer may provide additional healthcare cover. If this is not the case, you should consider having your own health insurance, so that in the event that you require treatment, you don’t end up out of pocket.
Is there any difference in the standards of treatment abroad compared with at home?
As stated earlier, generally EU healthcare is extremely good, no matter which country you visit. The main area where there are likely to be difficulties are if someone with a mental health problem visits a country and requires mental health attention. Particularly if there are communication and language difficulties, finding a suitable mental health care professional who speaks English may be a challenge. In addition, approaches to mental health care may be significantly different in some EU countries. Some sufferers may find this difficult.
Which countries are covered by EHIC Application?
At the current time, the following countries are part of the EHIC scheme:
All 28 EU countries: France, German, Belgium, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Romania, Denmark, Ireland,Croatia, Austria, Portugal, Czechia, Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Finland, Malta, Luxembourg, Malta, Cyprus, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia and Estonia.
In addition, EHIC is also accepted in Iceland, Lichtenstein, Switzerland and Norway.
With Britain leaving the EU on 31st October 2019, do I still need to fill in a European health insurance card application?
The short answer is yes, it’s still worth filling in the current application form EHIC card holders need to complete. Although it is likely that the arrangements for accessing medical care in the EU will change once Britain leaves, there are still some months until that date. If you intend to travel to Europe during this time, an EHIC is still a useful thing to have. In addition, as the EHIC medical card application is free, it makes sense to apply now. It may also be the case that the EHIC is relevant after 31st October 2019.
What happens if I need urgent medical treatment but don’t have an EHIC Application?
The worst case scenario is that you end up being required to pay the full cost of your medical treatment. Depending on what you require, this bill could potentially run into thousands of pounds! This can and does happen to British travellers each year. In some circumstances, if you haven’t has time to apply for a European Health Insurance Card or it has been forgotten or lost, you can telephone the Overseas Healthcare Services (OHS) on +44 191 218 1999 and request a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC). Normally the OHS can fax this to the hospital where you are receiving your treatment. It serves as proof that you are eligible for an EHIC.
Do I need travel insurance as well as an EHIC Application?
It should be remembered that EHIC only covers care up to the level that a citizen from the country where you are receiving treatment would expect to receive. As indicated earlier, it’s also the case that repatriation costs aren’t included. For these reasons, it is recommended that you have suitable travel insurance in addition to EHIC cover. The travel insurance will minimise the risk of paying additional charges and also frequently enables access to a wider selection of healthcare provision, as in some cases private care is also covered.
Who needs to apply for European Health Card cover?
If you, or a member of your family, are travelling in Europe, you will need an EHIC. If a family is travelling in Europe, each member of the family, including children, will need to have an EHIC. Note that when it comes to an EHIC application, all members of the same family can usually apply on the same form. It is wise to apply several weeks in advance of your visit, to ensure the EHIC card arrives before you need to leave.
Do I need to apply for E111?
An E111 card application form was the older version of what is now the EHIC application form. The E111 was phased out in 2005, in favour of EHIC. Although some people still remember applying for their European Health Insurance using an E111 application, if you wish to apply for cover now, you will need to fill in application forms for an EHIC card.
How long is an EHIC card Application valid for?
EHIC cards can be valid for up to five years. If you experience a change in circumstances which may affect eligibility, you will need to re-apply using the updated information. If you completed an E111 application to obtain your EHIC, it will have lapsed by now (the E111 was replaced by an EHIC application back in 2005). This means you will need to apply using an EHIC application form or apply online. You can no longer apply for an E111 card.
I’m applying for an EHIC card, what are the eligibility criteria?
Before applying for an EHIC card, you will first of all need to make sure that you satisfy the eligibility criteria. To be eligible, an individual needs to “ordinarily reside” in the UK. Although the definition of “ordinarily resident” is a little vague, in general, if you are a UK national, you will be eligible for an EHIC. If you aren’t sure that you satisfy the eligibility criteria, the UK government has some further information regarding here.
In addition, individuals applying for an EHIC in the UK must not already hold one obtained in another European country.
If your EHIC is still valid but has become lost or stolen, you cannot complete a new EHIC application online. Instead, you will need to contact the NHS via email (email@example.com) to request a new card.
Note that when you apply for a European health insurance card, you do not have to pass any additional eligibility tests beyond confirming your identity and status as “ordinarily resident”. EHICs are given regardless of employment status, income, housing tenure, state of health or any other factors. It is universally available to people who are ordinarily resident in the UK.
What information do I need to apply for an EHIC?
Each person on the application will need to give the following information:
– Their full name.
– Their date of birth
– National Insurance Number (if over the age of 18).
Do I need different information for an EHIC renewal application?
No! The information needed for a renewal is the same as for an initial application: full name; date of birth; NI number. Obviously, if your name has changed for whatever reason between applications, your EHIC renewal application for a fresh card will need to reflect the alteration.
What are the different methods of applying for an EHIC?
There are a number of different ways of applying for an EHIC (if you want to apply for an E111 card, please note that the EHIC card has now replaced it. Instead of applying for an E111 card, you will need to complete an EHIC application form instead). These are the methods available to apply for an EHIC:
– Online application: recent statistics show that around 95% of applicants use the online application system. Applying online is fast, convenient and FREE. Make sure you have your NI number to hand! You can start your EHIC application process here.
– Phone application: if you don’t have ready access to the Internet in order to complete an EHIC application online, you may wish to use the following phone number: 0300 330 1350. Note that this is an automated service: you won’t have the opportunity to discuss any queries when you apply for a European Health Insurance Card using the phone number given.
– By post: for an EHIC application that’s completed in writing, you will need to download a pdf application form and fill it in.
The form is fairly self-explanatory and most people do not require additional assistance to fill it in. If you aren’t sure how to complete the EHIC form or have any queries about how to apply, you can email your query to firstname.lastname@example.org.
How long does an EHIC card take to arrive?
On average your EHIC will arrive within seven working days.
I want to complete an E111 application, where can I find further information?
Although the E111 card application form was phased out in 2005 and replaced by the EHIC application process, many people still refer to the European Health Insurance application as an E111. If you are looking for an E111 application pack, or link to complete an online application, you will be directed to the EHIC application information. This is entirely correct, as it is now no longer possible to apply for an E111. Instead you will need to apply for an EHIC. An EHIC serves the same purpose as an E111, it’s simply a different name. If you have an old E111 form, do not fill it in! The only way to obtain proof of your eligibility for the European Health Insurance scheme is through the possession of an EHIC. You can obtain an EHIC through a number of different methods, shown above.
I already have an EHIC card, but it is due to run out soon, what should I do?
You will need to fill in an EHIC renewal application in good time. If your current EHIC has less than six months to run, you may wish to consider obtaining your fresh card before venturing abroad. There is a danger that should your EHIC lapse whilst you are receiving medical treatment (which might delay your repatriation to the UK), you may end up not covered and will end up paying for your medical care. Remember that you do not need an EHIC to obtain healthcare treatment in the UK if you are ordinarily resident in the UK. You will only need a valid EHIC card if you are travelling in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.
Is there a charge for an application form for an EHIC card?
No! EHICs are provided at no cost. You simply need to complete the EHIC application form and the card will be sent out to you. If you come across a site which is going to charge you for your EHIC, it could well be fraudulent. An EHIC is free to eligible citizens.
Do I need to apply for an EHIC if I am travelling outside the EU?
The EHIC is only valid within the countries already mentioned (EU countries, plus Switzerland, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway). If you are not travelling to any of those countries, you will need to make alternative arrangements to ensure that if you need unexpected medical care, you have appropriate cover in place. You can still apply for and receive an EHIC card, but it will not give you cover outside of the EEA. People are advised to get appropriate travel insurance in place before leaving the UK. This means that in the event of an unexpected emergency, they will be covered.
Is there an age limit for the EHIC Application?
No! There is no upper or lower age limit for the EHIC application. Parents can apply on behalf of children who are under the age of 18. Each individual who is travelling in the EU needs to have their own EHIC card in order to be eligible for free care at the point of delivery. Just because parents have a valid EHIC card, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their children are covered. An EHIC application needs to be made that mentions each child who requires an EHIC card, as well as any adults who are travelling.