What is the European Health Insurance Card? Even though EHIC card was phased in 2004 in the European Union, nowadays to this day still creates many doubts about how it works.

How EHIC card works?

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is a free card that gives EU citizens access to medically necessary, state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in any of the 28 EU countries, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, under the same conditions and at the same cost as people insured in that country.

The reason for the existence of EHIC card, is that the right to health care in Europe is based on the country of legal residence, not the country of citizenship.

The EHIC is not a substitute for travel insurance. The card does not cover private healthcare or costs if the medical treatment is the reason for travelling, which means it does not elective treatment abroad. Every country’s healthcare system is different; the EHIC does not guarantee free services in your home country will be free in your destination country.

The responsibility of issuing the EHIC is the state where a person is paying to or benefiting from the Social Security System. A resident of Spain, receiving a pension from the UK, should apply for the EHIC card in the UK.
500 million Europeans have the right to EHIC access, and it allows getting the necessary treatment when travelling within the European Union plus Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland.

The EHIC confirms that a person on a temporary stay abroad is entitled to receive necessary medical treatment from the host country’s public healthcare system on the same terms and at the same cost as nationals of that country. Hospitals that provide public health services are obliged to recognise the EHIC. In the event that the EHIC is not accepted, patients should contact the relevant health authority in the country they are visiting.

The card does not help with rescue and repatriation. If people need free transport back home after falling seriously ill or after having an accident while visiting another EU country, they will need separate insurance cover.

EHIC card in the United Kingdom

After March 2019 and Brexit, the EHIC may or may not survive in the UK, or may survive in principle but not in practice, so UK outbound and inbound travellers could have no EHIC.

Even if EHIC survives, it is not a substitute for travel insurance so it is suggested that travelers take out insurance, where there has been a recent trend not to do so.

Source: IMTJ