Many people in the UK already hold a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), but not everyone is aware of the benefits which a card can provide. Nearly 5.4 million cards are due to expire in 2019, so it is advisable to check yours. The expiry date is printed on the front of the card on the bottom right.
By checking the expiry date of your card and renewing before your trip to the EU, you will ensure you are able to access essential medical care while abroad. The EHIC is completely free of charge and those who hold a card will benefit from reduced-cost or free treatment in eligible countries.
How do I use an EHIC card?
If you are planning on visiting any country within the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland or Norway, you will be able to use a valid EHIC card. However, The Isle of Man and The Channel Islands are not covered.
The card will enable you to access state-provided healthcare, for treatment of an illness, care following an accident, maternity appointments and also treatment of chronic or existing conditions. Although, you will not be able to access medical treatment if that is the sole reason for your visit.
It is important that you check what you sign when accessing medical care abroad, as the card will not cover any form of private treatment. If you are involved in a medical emergency, you may be forced to use a country’s private healthcare system. In this situation you should gather as much proof as possible, as you may be able to claim a refund once you contact the local British Embassy.
In some countries, you may be required to pay for your medical care or a contribution towards it. But in many cases, you will be able to claim a refund for the treatment, if you have all receipts and paperwork relating to your care.
If you were asked to pay a contribution towards your treatment, such as the cost of your prescriptions, you will be able to claim back the difference between the full bill and the patient share. This is because since July 2014 the patient share is non-refundable.
Should I renew my EHIC if I have travel insurance?
Although both travel insurance and an EHIC card will provide access to medical care, you will still need both. If your EHIC is due to expire it is not advisable to rely solely on your travel insurance.
Many insurers will require you to hold a valid EHIC as part of their terms and conditions. This is because the EHIC will lower the cost of your medical care, so if you do require treatment the bill will be lower for the insurance company. As an incentive to encourage their customers to apply for and renew their EHIC’s, some insurers will waive their usual excess fee for those who hold cards.
It is also important that you take out travel insurance even if you hold a valid EHIC, as the care will not cover some forms of medical care, including:
1) Private medical care
2) Medical care on cruises
3) Repatriation back to the UK
4) Stolen or lost property
How to renew an EHIC card
An EHIC card is valid for 5 years and you can renew your card six months before it is due to expire. If your EHIC has expired it is possible to renew yours online, by post or by phone. The easiest way to renew your card is online through the EHIC website, but if your details have changed you may need to renew by phone on 0300 330 1350 or by post. The application form is available through the NHS website, which you can complete and send to:
NHS Business Services Authority
European Health Insurance Card
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle Upon Tyne
If you travel before your new EHIC arrives and need medical treatment, you can apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC). The PRC will provide you with the cover you need while you wait for you are outside of the UK. To apply for a PRC, you will need your National Insurance number, name, UK address, date of birth, details of the treatment facility and a contact email.
If you are a family in need of EHIC cards, every member will need a valid card. This means that a parent or guardian must renew the cards for each family member which is under the age of 16. It is also possible for a parent to renew the card of a child under the age of 19, as long as they are still in full-time education. You should enter your own details followed by those of each of the dependents, each person will then be sent a separate EHIC.
Will Brexit impact my EHIC card renewal?
As the EHIC scheme is an agreement between countries within the EEA and the EU, it is likely that Brexit will have an impact on UK resident’s entitlement to EHIC cards. However, this will not happen until the UK officially leaves the EU in October 2019. This means that up until this date it is possible for UK residents to continue to use their EHIC cards.
Why do some websites charge a fee for renewing EHIC’s?
If you have searched online for ways to renew your European Health Insurance Card, you may have come across various websites offering paid renewal services. These companies will usually charge between £20 and £30, in return for processing and forwarding your EHIC renewal form.
The companies will check your application, but EHIC cards are designed to be simple and quick to renew, so you do not need to pay for third-party services. The government is currently working with the Advertising Standards Authority and Trading Standards to raise awareness of the false claims made by many copycat websites.
If you have already paid to renew your EHIC through one of these websites, it may be possible to claim a refund from them and apply yourself for free.
To find out more about renewing your European Health Insurance Card, please contact our team today.