Are you traveling through Europe? Make sure you get your free European Health Insurance Card !
You can get your free card if you are a member of State of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. People from non-EU countries who are legally residing in the EU and are covered by a state social security scheme are also eligible for a card.
What is the European Health Insurance Card?
A free card that gives you access to medically necessary, state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in any of the 28 EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, under the same conditions and at the same cost (free in some countries) as people insured in that country.
Cards are issued by your national health insurance provider.
Important – the European Health Insurance Card:
- is not an alternative to travel insurance. It does not cover any private healthcare or costs such as a return flight to your home country or lost/stolen property,
- does not cover your costs if you are travelling for the express purpose ofobtaining medical treatment,
- does not guarantee free services. As each country’s healthcare system is different services that cost nothing at home might not be free in another country.
Please note: when you move your habitual residence to another country, you should register with the S1 form instead of using the EHIC to receive medical care in your new country of habitual residence.
Applying for a card
How do you obtain a card?
You obtain a card by contacting the health insurance institution where you are insuredand which is therefore responsible for assuming your healthcare costs.
Who can benefit from the card?
To be eligible for a card, you must be insured by or covered by a state social security system in any Member State of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. Each separate member of a family travelling should have their own card.
People from non-EU countries who are legally residing in the EU and are covered by a state social security scheme are also eligible for a card. However, nationals from non-EU countries cannot use their EHIC for medical treatment in Denmark, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
How long is the card valid for?
This varies from one country to another and is best to check when you contact your local health authority to obtain the card.
What action can you take if your local authority refuses to give you a European Health Insurance Card?
If you ask for the European Health Insurance Card, your local authority is obliged to provide you with one or, failing that, with a provisional replacement certificate if the card is not immediately available. If they do not, you should be able to appeal.
If you are unsure about your rights or need information on how to ensure that your right to an EHIC is respected by your national authorities, you can contact Your Europe Advice.
What action can you take if your EHIC is not recognised abroad?
If your EHIC is not recognised by the authorities of any EU country – or Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – you can request your home insurer to contact the doctor or hospital abroad.
If this does not solve your problem, you can ask SOLVIT for help.
Getting your costs met
To ensure maximum cover, you should check with your health insurance institution before you go. In general, your health insurance institution will cover your costs only if the law in the State where you are insured recognises the treatment. For example, the cost of spa cures is covered in some countries but not in others.
Which costs will be covered? What will I have to pay?
If you get authorisation, the cost of treatment (in hospital or not) will be covered at whichever rate is higher – the State where you are insured or the State where you are receiving treatment.
Please note that the entitlement to additional reimbursement is not recognised in the case of Switzerland, whether you are insured in an EEA country and travelling to Switzerland or vice versa.
If you did not get authorisation, then in principle you are not entitled to the costs of hospital treatment received in another State. Non-hospital treatment will be covered on the terms offered by the State where you are insured, without any additional reimbursement if the State of treatment offers a higher rate of reimbursement. Please note that if you do not have authorisation, treatment costs are not covered for EEA nationals in Switzerland or vice versa.
Sophie is insured in country A. She has authorisation for an operation in country B. The cost of her hospital stay in country B is €4 000. For similar treatment in country A, only €2 800 would be reimbursed, as compared with €3 200 in country B.
Because she got authorisation, Sophie will enjoy the same terms as people insured in country B, meaning that she will be reimbursed €3 200 and will have to pay only the €800 difference.
If, on the other hand, similar treatment in country A is reimbursed at €3 500, Sophie will receive not only reimbursement at the rate offered in country B (€3 200), but also additional reimbursement of the difference between the two countries (€3 500-€3 200 =€300). The total amount reimbursed in this case would therefore be €3 500, leaving Sophie only €500 to pay.
Which is the most financially advantageous solution?
In financial terms, your best course of action is to obtain authorisation.
For hospital treatment, your health insurance institution will almost always require you to seek prior authorisation. This authorisation guarantees you reimbursement at the most favourable rate. Your treatment costs will then automatically be reimbursed at the rate offered in the State where you receive treatment, and if a higher rate is offered in the State where you are insured, your insurance will reimburse you the difference. Please note that the entitlement to additional reimbursement is not recognised in relations with Switzerland.
For non-hospital treatment, if you obtain authorisation, the guarantees will be the same. Alternatively, you can travel directly to the country where you want to receive treatment, without getting authorisation, and claim the reimbursement offered by your health insurance institution on your return. If the rate of cover is higher than in the State of treatment, you will be reimbursed at that rate. However, if the rate of cover is higher in the State where you are treated, you will not be entitled to additional reimbursement. Please note that without authorisation, treatment costs are not covered in relations with Switzerland.
Note: there is currently no European definition of “hospital treatment” or “non-hospital treatment”. If in doubt, check with your health insurance institution.
Please note that in principle, your treatment costs will be covered only if the law in the State where you are insured covers the treatment. For example, the cost of spa cures is covered in some countries but not in others. Find out from your insurance institution before you travel.