Update 2019 – With the looming threat of Brexit, if a No Deal Brexit goes through, you cannot count on your EHIC Card being valid (see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-44850972). There is a UK General Election on 12th December and there is a Brexit delay until 31 January 2020.
If you are a British citizen travelling within Europe, it is essential that you get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), as well as comprehensive travel insurance. I have recently renewed my EHIC card ready for my forthcoming trip to Barcelona.
Who is Eligible for the EHIC Card and do you have to pay?
Unfortunately, there are unofficial sites popping up offering a ‘good price’ for an EHIC card. Do not use them, because the EHIC is FREE to UK residents of British, EEA, EU or Swiss nationality.
Avoid ehicdirect.org.uk (not even worthy of a link!) as it will ‘process your application’ (i.e. click a button!) and charge you £24.50 for doing so! Don’t Google it either, as there are plenty of other rip off sites trying to work their way up the Google rankings.
Make sure that you apply via the official website, which is https://www.ehic.org.uk. You can apply online. It is easy to apply for, so if you are travelling to Europe, get your EHIC card now!
How long will it take my EHIC Card to Arrive?
Remember that the EHIC card will take 7 to 10 working days to process and to be delivered, so you need to apply at least two weeks before your European trip.
Why should I get an EHIC Card?
An EHIC card will entitle you to either reduced or free State provided Health care in the European economic area and Switzerland. Basically, you will be treated the same as a local citizen in that country if you are carrying an EHIC.
For example, when I travel to Spain next week, the EHIC card will entitle me to state healthcare in Spain including pre-existing medical conditions.
However, your entitlement is different in different EEA countries, so if you would like to research a particular country regarding the use of your EHIC card, follow this link.
Also, check the exceptions. The card will not cover you if you planned to get health care in a different country. Pregnant mothers who intend to give birth in another country will also not be covered.
Some European countries do not accept an EHIC card at all…
How to claim using your EHIC Card
Keep your IHIC card with you at all times when you travel, as you will be asked to produce it in a medical emergency. Visit www.dh.gov.uk/travellers to find out what you may be charged or how to claim. Try to claim in the country where you have received treatment first, as it could be more complicated if you try to do this when you return home to the UK.
Do not use the EHIC as a Substitute for Travel Insurance!
One last tip – do not use the EHIC car as a substitute for travel insurance. There will be some things that are not covered by your EHIC card, such as Adventure sports and theft. Some travel insurance companies insist that you carry an EHIC card in order to validate your insurance. So check your insurance Fine-Print carefully and carry it together with your EHIC card.