Why you should bother with the EHIC Card

If you’ve ever travelled abroad to anywhere in Europe you’ve likely brought insurance for yourself and your family to ensure that you’re covered. But did you know that the EHIC Card is a free health insurance card which you can use to get medical assistance throughout Europe? Often this healthcare is free (or very low-cost) including treatment for pre-existing conditions and maternity care.

While not a replacement for travel insurance, the EHIC Card is the perfect way to help protect yourself and your family from expensive medical bills while you’re away. Although it only covers state hospitals so if you can’t find a state hospital, you will need to pay for private care. But remember to take your card with you when out and about else it might be more difficult to get treatment if you have to be rushed to hospital and you haven’t got your card on you!

When travelling abroad with children under 16, you must enter their details on the government website as the main applicant but they will receive their own card so the parent or guardian doesn’t need to be present during travel. Your EHIC Card will need to be renewed every 5 years.

A simple guide to what it covers:

  • Illness or accident
  • Pre-existing medical conditions
  • Standard maternity cover
  • Routine medical care

It does not however cover:

  • Repatriation
  • Private healthcare
  • Air ambulance
  • Mountain rescue
  • Non-emergency treatments

All this health care is guaranteed up until 31st December 2020 when the government will decide if a replacement scheme will come into play.

How to get one?

You can simply apply online through the NHS either online, by telephone or by posting the relevant forms (available from the Post Office). You will need to provide your full name, date of birth, national insurance number (or NHS number for children), address and telephone number.

There are certain parts of the EEA however where the EHIC Card won’t be accepted. You will not receive free healthcare in the following destinations:

  • The Channel Islands
  • The Isle of Man
  • San Marino
  • The Vatican

For more information about the EHIC Card and for a comprehensive country-by-county list of what is covered where, please check here.

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