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If you’re planning to go on holiday to Europe soon, you may already know about the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). However, for those who have no idea what it is, here’s an explanation of what it does and why you need one.

Sample of the EHIC - european health insurance card

Sample French EHIC published under Creative Commons license

What it is

When you go on holiday, it’s always recommended that you have travel insurance. If anything were to happen to you while you’re away, the insurance usually covers most eventualities and emergencies. If you are traveling to Europe, you can also get the EHIC. Back in 206, the E111 form was scrapped and the EHIC was introduced to replace it. The card gives you access to state medical care in all of the European Union (EU) countries, as well as in the European Free Trade Area. This area is made up of Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland. The NHS website will tell you exactly which countries are covered with the EHIC so it’s worth checking before you go anywhere. People have been caught out in the past by thinking their card covered them in a country that wasn’t part of the scheme.

All members of the family can be covered by the card, but each of them will need their own individual card, including small children and babies. It’s useful to apply for the entire family in one go and to do it a few weeks in advance of travel. This gives you the time to ensure you have all the necessary documentation before you travel.

What it does

The card gives you access to state medical care. While in a lot of countries this is comparable to the NHS, don’t automatically expect this to be the case. Be aware that standards can vary greatly from country to country. The EHIC won’t cover you for the costs if you need to be flown home in an air ambulance for long-term or specialist treatment in the UK. This can cost tens of thousands of pounds so having additional travel insurance is essential to cover these charges. Even if you have the EHIC, you may still be expected to pay for certain services such as bedding or food. This is the standard in some countries, with the citizens paying it, so don’t be surprised if you are left with a bill at the end. Obviously, nobody wants to have to use travel insurance, but it’s not worth the risk if something does happen and you aren’t covered.

This blog post and infographic by Holidaysafe shows you what the EHIC covers in each country, as well as what countries charge for care. Some EU countries have charges for ambulances, whereas this is a free service in the UK. Similarly, dental care incurs a charge in several countries so having additional insurance is going to be extremely helpful if you need either of these services.

What is the EHIC?

Applying for an EHIC takes only a few minutes and there is no charge for it. Be aware that when searching for the application form online, you will come across companies offering to help you apply for the card, but also including a charge for the service. The service is free of charge if you apply directly through the NHS website, rather than using one of the official-looking chargeable sites. Just make sure you also have additional travel insurance. You don’t want your holiday to be ruined by a bill of thousands of pounds for medical care, because you didn’t bother with insurance.

Featured images:
  •  License: Image author owned

Holidaysafe travel blogger Lauren Sutton is from the UK and therefore is automatically entitled to a European Health Insurance Card. However, she never leaves for her holidays without insurance.

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