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The European Health Insurance Card

It’s now been five years since the European Health Insurance Card was created and now more than a third of Europeans, some 180 million people have them. So how do they work and how can they make your life easier?

The European Health Insurance Card is designed to help people get medical care while on a temporary stay abroad, for example while on holiday, studying, or working in any of 31 countries: that’s the 27 EU member states, plus Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein and Switzerland. As the social affairs commissioners spokeswoman explains “If you hold an EHIC card it means you are entitled to the care on the same terms as a resident of the country you are visiting.”

A broken leg, toothache, a virus, even chronic problems like asthma or diabetes all are covered. Just show your European Health Insurance Card to be treated.

It will also cut through red tape and help with refunding costs of any medical treatment that you have to pay for.

You do have to ask for a card, it is not automatically issued, though some countries do have it on the reverse of their own National Health Insurance Cards. It is free and to get one you just have to apply to the Health Authorities in your country. The cards are individual and every member of your family should have one, including children.

If you lose or forget your card you can ask for a Provisional Replacement Certificate to be sent to you. It’s important to note that the European Health Insurance Card can only be used within the framework of public healthcare provision and does not replace supplemental travel insurance. It also doesn’t cover you if you are going abroad for planned medical treatment.

If you are unfortunate when on your travels and are in need of medical treatment when not in possession of your EHIC Card, you may be required to pay a fee. This is refundable from the Department of Work and Pensions when back in the UK. Simply call them on 0191 218 1999 (You will need to have your National Insurance Number and personal bank details to hand) or write to them at: Department for Work and Pensions, Caxton House, Tothill Street, London, SW1H 9NA.

Finally, remember that in the case of a medical emergency the number to call is 112 throughout the entire European Union. Calls are free and can be made from a landline or on mobile phones.

European Health Insurance Card Applicationn