To be eligible for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), you must have medical insurance and be resident in a European Economic Area (EEA) country. If you live in the UK, you are considered to be insured by the NHS as long as you are a British citizen currently living in the country.
The EEA is made up of the 28 EU nations, with Croatia – the newest member – currently given ‘provisional’ status within the group, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Switzerland also has its own agreements with the EU and the EEA that mean it is also a member of the European Health Card Initiative even though it is not an EEA member country.
However, British citizens living in the Channel Islands or on the Isle of Man are not covered by the EHIC and their citizens are not eligible to apply for a card. This is because technically the islands are not part of the UK, and thus not part of the EEA, rather they are self-administrated islands under the possession of the British crown.
The EHIC is not a replacement for health and/or travel insurance. The EHIC guarantees free or discounted healthcare in cooperating countries for pre-existing conditions or illness when abroad in an EHIC country. The health card does not cover private health costs that may be incurred during a sporting accident or any costs involved with rescue operations. The card also does not cover the cost of a return flight back to the UK if the patient desires it. It is, therefore, important to have both an EHIC card and travel insurance when travelling to an EEA country.
If you live in another EEA country but you are a British citizen, you may still be entitled to a UK-issued EHIC; this is important as the healthcare provided is different depending on the country that issued the card, and the UK has one of the most robust health cards.
To qualify for a UK health card when living outside of the UK, one of the following must apply to you: you receive a UK state pension; you are a worker posted in an EEA country by your UK employer; you are a family member of a worker posted in the EEA by their UK employer; or you are a student going to an EEA country to study.
Please note, as a result of the British EU referendum to leave the EU, continued British membership within the EEA is currently unknown and, therefore, the continued availability of the EHIC to British nationals once Brexit is completed is also unknown.