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Guide to the European Health Insurance Card

What is an EHIC?

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is available to all UK residents and allows travellers to receive treatment from public hospitals in all European Economic Area (EEC)* countries and Switzerland on the same basis as a resident of the country visited. Each individual, including babies and children, must have their own EHIC.

What does EHIC cover?

The EHIC allows you to get treatment on the same basis (for example, free or at a reduced cost) as people who live in that country. The healthcare system in each country can be quite varied. Therefore, your EHIC might not cover everything that would be free on the NHS in the UK.

Remember to carry your EHIC with you at all times to prove you are entitled to healthcare.

If I have an EHIC, do I need travel insurance?

Yes, you need both, as an EHIC does NOT cover:

  • all medical costs, as few European Union (EU) countries will pay the full cost of all medical treatment, even under the EU’s healthcare arrangements, and the EHIC doesn’t cover private medical treatment
  • dental treatment in some countries
  • private medical treatment - in a medical emergency the closest hospital or the hospital you are taken to may be private
  • getting you back to the UK (repatriation)

The EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance, so it is important to have both. Many travel insurers will waive their excess if you use your EHIC.

Where is the EHIC valid?

The EHIC is valid in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland.

The EEA is made up of all 28 members of the European Union, plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

Do I have to pay for an EHIC? And how do I get one?

Remember that the EHIC is FREE.

Some unofficial websites will charge a fee for arranging an EHIC for you; however, you can apply for a free EHIC in the following ways:

You will need to know your National Insurance number or your NHS number to apply for your EHIC card.

You are covered for travel from the date of application (if you applied via the NHS website or phone line).

Do I have to renew my EHIC?

Yes. The EHIC is valid for up to five years. Check that your EHIC is still valid before you travel. Renewing your card is free.

Remember that you can renew your EHIC up to six months before the expiry date. However, any time left on the card will not be added to your new card.

How do I use my EHIC?

EHICs are only accepted in public medical facilities, so if you need medical help while you’re away try to go a public medical facility (you may need to specifically ask for one or you could be directed to a private facility). Your travel insurer will be able to direct you to an appropriate medical facility so, if you have time, contact them before seeking medical attention. It’s a good idea to save your travel insurer’s number, and their appointed emergency medical assistance company’s number in your phone.

You should show your EHIC on arrival at the medical facility and before you obtain any treatment.
Some European health systems expect you to pay your bill when you are treated and then claim a refund using your EHIC. Remember to keep all receipts and any paperwork. You or your insurance company may need them if you're applying for a refund or reimbursement.

What if I have a valid EHIC, but don’t have it with me when I get to the hospital?

If you travel and you do not have your card with you, and treatment becomes medically necessary during your visit, you should be able to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) to prove your entitlement to the EHIC. This will be sent directly to the place of treatment.

To apply for a PRC, call the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team on 00 44 191 218 1999 (Monday to Friday, 8.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m.). You will need to provide your name, address, date of birth and NI or NHS number. It's a good idea to save this number in your phone. If you have travel insurance, the emergency medical assistance service will be able to apply on your behalf.

What if the hospital refuses to recognise my EHIC?

All public medical facilities in the EEA and Switzerland should accept the EHIC. If you have any difficulties with using the EHIC, contact your travel insurer right away.


*The European Economic Area (EEA) is made up of the 28 European Union (EU) member states, along with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.