The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is an important tool for British nationals travelling overseas in Europe. The card entitles holders to receive state-funded medical care, under the same system as a citizen of that country. The card is valid across the European Economic Area (EEA) and also in Switzerland. The European Economic Area is a free trade zone which includes all countries in the EU, as well as Lichtenstein, Iceland and Norway.
This means that you can use your EHIC card in all of these countries:
- Czech Republic
A number of outlying territories and islands are also covered by the EHIC system, including: the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Madeira, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands.
However, there are some important exceptions to the standard EHIC rules, which it is very important to note before travelling. There are some European countries which will not accept the EHIC, and it is therefore vital that you have adequate health insurance before you travel to any of the following destinations:
- The Channel Islands
- The Isle of Man
- San Marino
- The Vatican
Switzerland also has some specific rules about who can access healthcare through the EHIC system (for example, nationals of many Eastern European countries are not eligible); however, Switzerland does not apply these rules to UK nationals.
Prior to travelling it is critical that you check your EHIC card is in date, and will remain in date for the entire duration of your trip. If you lose or forget your card, it is possible to collect a provisional replacement certificate, to prove your entitlement – but if you are not covered, you will be liable for costs incurred.
The EHIC system should not be treated as a substitute for insurance, especially if you are travelling to countries such as France, Italy and Switzerland for extreme sports such as mountain climbing or skiing. Many aspects of emergency healthcare associated with accidents in these environments, will not be covered by the EHIC.
You should also bear in mind that in many EEA countries, residents are expected to pay a certain proportion of the cost of care. So, whilst medical treatment will undoubtedly be much cheaper with an EHIC than without one, you may still be expected to pay a certain fee – in line with what any resident of that country would pay for the same treatment.