If you’re travelling to a destination in Europe then you should make sure you take a Europe Health Insurance Card (EHIC) with you. Unfortunately too many people don’t know about them and how useful they can be.
The EHIC was introduced in 2005, when it replaced the E11. This card allows EU citizens to receive medical treatment at a discounted rate (or free) in other EU countries and so it’s an essential thing to pack for a European holiday.
What is an EHIC?
The EHIC is a medical card that you can use in the EU and certain outlying countries including Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The card entitles you to receive medical treatment at a state hospital at the same rate that residents of the country you’re in. So if you visit a country with free healthcare then the EHIC means you get free healthcare.
It’s also completely free to get an EHIC, but you do need to renew it once every five years. You can request and renew your EHIC through the EHIC website.
How to Use an EHIC
It’s quite simple to use your EHIC. The only thing you need to do is present the card before receiving treatment. Do this and you should have no problems. Remember that you need to keep the card on you at all times. It can be difficult to receive treatment if you need to be rushed to hospital and don’t have it on you.
If you lose your EHIC or don’t have it then you could possibly receive a temporary EHIC replacement or get a Provisional Replacement Certificate. Even so it’s still much easier for you to just present your EHIC when you enter a medical facility. Also keep in mind that you can only use your EHIC in a state-run facility. If you go to a private medical centre then you’ll be expected to pay for everything yourself.
Do You Need Travel Insurance if you Have an EHIC?
Plenty of travellers are under the impression that having an EHIC means that there’s no need for them to have travel insurance, but to think this is a major mistake. Even though the “I” in EHIC stands for insurance that doesn’t make it a replacement for travel cover. The EHIC is simply designed to help you pay for healthcare.
Travel insurance also covers more than just medical expenses. It also covers you in the event that you need to cancel the holiday, return early, lose your luggage, and plenty of other important things. Some insurance also waive the medical claim excess if you’ve got an EHIC with you.
Could Your EHIC be Refused?
There have been some reports of countries where medical staff, even state-registered ones, refuse to accept the EHIC. The two most common excuses they use is that they don’t recognise the card and that they don’t have the technology they need to accept it. Even though this is a breach of European rules it’s also particularly common in certain regions of Spain including Catalonia.
Many Spanish medical facilities, locally known as “Centros Sanitarios” are private. Even so there are also state providers who will reject the EHIC if they know that you’re covered by travel insurance.
The UK government is aware that this is happening and has dispatched officials to Valencia to handle the issue. The issue has also been raised with the European Commission as a whole.
If you have your EHIC refused by a state-run clinic then you should try to find some proof that you presented it when you said you did; this could be the key that gets your insurance provider to waive your excess. If you feel that you were still charged unfairly then contact the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as they may be able to reimburse you.
What If You Have to Pay up Front?
Even if you go to a country with free healthcare you may need to still pay your fees upfront and have the money returned to you via a claim when you return home. France is one country where you will be expected to pay for some services, or have a bill sent back home. Generally the provider will advise you about making a claim for reimbursement.