The European Health Insurance Card, or EHIC, is a card which proves that the holder is an EU national and, as such, is entitled to certain medical care when travelling within the EU. The specifics about what it covers will vary from country to country but, on a basic level, carrying an EHIC card entitles you to reduced-cost or free medical care from state providers. The card is available free of charge from the NHS.
How to apply for an EHIC
Before applying on the official NHS EHIC website, you will need to have the following information to hand:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- National Insurance number or NHS number
A spouse or partner and any dependent children aged up to 16, or 19 if in full time education, can also be added to the same application. If you intend to do this, you will need full details for all additional applicants, although the main applicant’s National Insurance number or NHS number can also be used for children.
Bear in mind that each member of your party must have their own EHIC.
If you prefer not to apply online, and have time before you are due to travel, postal applications are also available. The form can be downloaded here.
For telephone applications, call the EHIC Application Line on 0300 330 1350.
Beware of third party sites that advertise themselves as EHIC application or renewal services. There is no need to pay for the EHIC card or for a renewal – make sure you use the official NHS contact details for a free card.
Who can apply for an EHIC?
To use the NHS EHIC service, the main applicant must be:
- Ordinarily resident within the UK
- A British, EU or Swiss national
- Not resident in the Channel Islands or Isle of Man
- Those living in another EU country but receiving a UK pension may also be eligible for a UK EHIC. Full information can be found on the EHIC website
UK residents whose nationality is one other than listed above may also be eligible for a UK EHIC but will need to prove their entitlement by sending a copy of their Visa or Home Office letter along with a printed application form to the following address:
NHS Business Services Authority
European Health Insurance Card
152 Pilgrim Street
Newcastle Upon Tyne
What does an EHIC cover?
While the EHIC entitles the holder to reduced-cost or free state medical care, it does not replace travel insurance.
The cover provided by the EHIC includes:
- Reduced-cost or free medical care provided by the state. This includes chronic or pre-existing medical conditions.
- Routine maternity care, including birth. This only applies where the holder has not deliberately travelled to another country to give birth; the EHIC only covers unexpected circumstances.
- Pre-booked kidney dialysis and oxygen treatments. You must arrange these in advance by contacting your GP. Make sure your booking is made with a state provider and not a private healthcare facility.
- Routine medical care and monitoring for those with pre-existing conditions that require regular check-ups
What the EHIC doesn’t cover
There are some exceptions to the cover, which also apply to state-operated services. The full details for each country are available from the EHIC country by country guide but some of the main points include:
- Any private medical care
- Mountain rescue
- Lost or stolen property
- The cost of flying back to the UK
- Treatment where state healthcare is not available
- Patient contributions which are required in some EU countries
- GP visits
- Dentist visits
- Some hospital stays
Some countries will also require you to pay the bill up front and claim your costs back from the EHIC system. Should this happen, it is best to apply for your refund before you leave the country, by following the instructions in the country by country guide.
What happens if I lose or forget my EHIC card?
You will be covered from the date of application, providing you meet the eligibility criteria and have applied via telephone or internet. Should you forget your EHIC card and require medical attention, a temporary Provisional Replacement Card can be issued and sent directly to the treatment centre. To obtain this, call the Overseas Healthcare Team on +44 191 218 1999 between 8am and 5pm (UK time) Monday to Friday. You will need your National Insurance or NHS number to obtain the replacement.
If your card is lost or stolen, call the EHIC application line on 0300 330 1350 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. These contact details can also be used for renewals when your card expires.
Changes to your details
If you change your name or address you will need to update the information on your EHIC card. Some changes can be done online, but others, such as a name change have to be done over the telephone. Call the EHIC team on 0300 3301350.
Lastly, all EHIC cards will need to be renewed after around 5 years and again this can be done via their website.
Don’t forget that whilst the EHIC card does provide you with basic cover, it is no substitute for travel insurance. We have travel insurance policies that are suitable for people with medical conditions, the over 65’s, families and long stay travellers. Call us on 01480 402460 for more information.