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EHIC - the European Health Insurance Card

The free card that helps reduce medical costs when travelling in Europe

Medical care in Europe

If you’re travelling to Europe soon, make sure you have your EHIC in place, as well as your European travel insurance. Our guide explains why it’s best to travel with both in your pocket.

What is an EHIC?

EHIC stands for European Health Insurance Card. It's a small plastic card, like a credit card, that gives you the right to state-provided medical care in countries within the European Economic Area and Switzerland. This includes all the usual European holiday destinations of France, Spain, Italy and Greece.

Use your EHIC to get public healthcare in Europe

Does it replace European travel insurance?

No, the EHIC should be considered complementary to your European travel insurance rather than a replacement. The EHIC will only cover you for medical treatment that is normally provided by the state in the country you’re visiting.

In the UK, we're used to the NHS providing free medical care at the point of need, but in some European countries, the state will charge for some medical care. So, if the local residents are required to pay for some GP services for example, so will you.

EHIC covers you for state treatment and any costs that are not covered can be claimed against your travel insurance; with LV= travel insurance, we waive the excess if the EHIC has been used to reduce the cost of the claim.

In addition to medical cover, LV= travel insurance can also cover you:

  • If you need to cancel your holiday
  • For repatriation to the UK
  • If you need to cancel booked excursions
  • For lost or stolen baggage, money and passports
  • For emergency rescue whilst taking part in winter sports

Why do I need an EHIC?

Many European travel insurance policies, including LV=, expect you to use public health facilities, not private ones, where possible. To do this, you'll need to ask to be treated at a public facility and show your EHIC when you arrive at the hospital or clinic.

The good news is that when you use your EHIC to get public healthcare in Europe, you won't be expected to pay the excess on your insurance policy.

The EHIC will also cover you for pre-existing medical conditions that won’t necessarily be automatically covered by your European travel insurance. So if you're receiving treatment for a heart condition in the UK, that treatment will be available if you need it when you show your EHIC in Europe. However, you can’t specifically travel to Europe to get treatment using your EHIC.

If you're pregnant and you need treatment for your pregnancy, your EHIC will cover both routine and emergency treatment whilst you’re in Europe.

Do I have to pay for an EHIC?

No, the EHIC is free. There are some third party websites that charge to help you apply for an EHIC, but the process is very straightforward, so there’s no need to pay for help to get a card.

How do I get an EHIC?

The simplest way to apply for an EHIC is online. You can do this through the UK government website or the NHS website. Or you can call the EHIC application service on 0300 330 1350.

You’ll need to provide:

  • Your National Insurance number or NHS number (or equivalent in Scotland and Northern Ireland)
  • Your full name
  • Your date of birth

Do children need one?

Yes, each member of the family will need their own EHIC if they are travelling to Europe. If a child is under 16, their parent or guardian can apply for an EHIC for them.

How long does it last?

Your EHIC is valid for five years. After that time, you’ll need to renew it. Keep an eye on the renewal date, as without your EHIC it could be expensive to get medical treatment. The expiry date is shown on the card. You can renew your EHIC up to six months before it runs out.

Things to remember about your EHIC

  • It’s not a substitute for European travel insurance – you need both
  • They’re free, so don’t pay for one
  • Children need their own EHIC
  • They last for up to five years
  • Carry it with you at all times when you’re in Europe

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