If you’re travelling in Europe, it’s essential that you have a valid E111. Also known as the European Health Insurance Card or EHIC, it will ensure that you get the state-provided healthcare you are entitled to either free or at a reduced cost. It will cover you for medically necessary treatment, but you will also need travel insurance to fill the gaps of care it doesn’t cover. It’s important to understand the implications of this, so we’ll take a look at what the E111 does and doesn’t cover later in the article.
First off, to understand more about where you can use your EHIC or E111, take a look at our list below of countries where it can be used.
The EHIC is valid for countries in the European Economic Area and Switzerland. This is a list of places where it can be used by UK citizens:
- Czech Republic
- Netherlands (Holland)
Remember that each of the countries listed above will have their own rules about how you can access and receive medical treatment as a visitor – while one country may not charge at all for a stay in hospital, another will, so you must familiarise yourself with the rules for the exact destination you are travelling to.
Also, you may not be able to receive all the healthcare you receive free on the NHS – while some aspects of your care may be free, there may be a charge for others. For example, while many of these destinations provide free emergency healthcare including paramedic assistance and travel by ambulance, they may not offer hospital care free of charge. Or you may be charged for a GP consultation but be able to claim back a percentage of the total cost.
You also need to know which countries and states in Europe the EHIC doesn’t cover:
- Cape Verde Islands
- The Channel Islands (which include Guernsey, Alderney and Sark)
- The Isle of Man
- San Marino
- The Vatican
It is essential that you have private travel insurance in place to cover any healthcare costs if you are visiting one of these countries.
It’s also worth knowing a bit more about the EHIC, so you can use it with confidence when you travel to one of the relevant countries. Its purpose is to show that as an EU citizen, you are entitled to treatment that is medically necessary until you return home. This is on the same basis as a resident of your destination country, making healthcare equitable for everyone who is a citizen of the European Union.
As mentioned previously, it’s important to remember that the EHIC will only cover you for medical treatment provided by the state, so make sure that you access healthcare at a public rather than a private facility. This is especially important to remember if someone like a hotel employee or travel rep is organising care on your behalf.
There are also some types of care that the EHIC won’t cover you for. These are listed below:
- Mountain rescue services (for example in ski resorts)
- Being flown back to the UK after medical treatment (for example in an air ambulance with a nurse escort)
- The cost of an extended stay if you have to recover after treatment
- Healthcare while you are travelling on a cruise
- Repatriation of a body if a tourist dies abroad
You will also find that your cover for dental treatment and the costs of prescriptions with an EHIC card varies from country to country, though many countries offer EHIC holders a reduced fee for these services. For dentistry, generally speaking most countries won’t provide free care with an EHIC, except in an emergency. And like the UK, there may be a small charge for prescriptions unless you have a valid exemption (for example, if you are a pensioner). For peace of mind, it’s best to check the rules specific to your destination country.
Be aware that the card will not cover you for your healthcare expenses if you are travelling with the intention of receiving treatment abroad instead of in the UK.
However, it will cover you for treatment for long-term conditions. For example, kidney dialysis is provided for under the E111, but you will need to make arrangements in advance for this. Oxygen is also covered but again you need to arrange this in advance and use the authorised company according to the country you are visiting. Note that in the Canary Islands the minimum prescribed amount of oxygen therapy is 15 hours per day to be able to use your EHIC for this.
Your EHIC will cover you for routine maternity care (medical checks and any care needed as part of this), for unplanned childbirth and for any treatment needed following the birth. However, it does not cover you if you are actively planning to give birth in the country you are travelling to.
Because of the EHIC’s restrictions described above, you are strongly recommended, even if you are travelling with a valid EHIC to one of the above-listed destinations, to purchase travel insurance to cover any additional costs. In this case, make sure you keep any receipts and paperwork relating to your healthcare to help you claim a refund.
Finally, be aware that if you’re from the UK, your E111 will only be valid up until we leave the EU which is currently planned for 31 October 2019. The UK government is negotiating with other European countries about reciprocal healthcare arrangements, but these haven’t been finalised yet. So, if you’re travelling on or after this date, you will need to ensure that you have adequate travel insurance in place to cover any healthcare costs.