EHIC Card - European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
The EHIC entitles you to free or discounted healthcare in the European Union (EU) and Switzerland. It’s being replaced by the General Health Insurance Card (GHIC). Find out exactly what the cards do - and don’t - cover and how to apply for a new one.
What is an EHIC Card?
A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows UK residents travelling to countries in the EU and Switzerland to access state-funded emergency healthcare for free or at the same rate as a resident of that country.
EHIC cards are currently being phased out and replaced by the GHIC. But your current EHIC remains valid until the expiry date on the card.
- The EHIC is gradually being phased out to be replaced by the GHIC. But your current EHIC is still valid until it expires
- Although it’s free, you won’t get a GHIC automatically. You need to apply for it on the NHS website
- An EHIC or GHIC isn't a replacement for travel insurance
- Each member of a travelling party needs their own card
Why is it worth getting a EHIC or the new GHIC?
Showing the card will provide proof that you’re entitled to receive state-provided emergency medical treatment if you fall ill or have an accident.
With the card, you should be charged the same price for healthcare as local citizens of the country. And if healthcare is free for them, it should be free for you too.
Even if you have travel insurance in place, you should take a EHIC or GHIC card away with you. Some insurers will insist on this as part of the conditions of their policies.
What does my EHIC cover?
It covers medically necessary healthcare that can’t wait until you get back home to the UK.
That can include emergency treatment after an accident or if you fall ill, healthcare and monitoring for a pre-existing condition, routine maternity care and things like kidney dialysis (though this type of treatment will need to be arranged before you travel with the healthcare provider in the country you're visiting).
The card won’t cover medical treatment that you’ve specifically travelled to an EU country to receive, though.
You also can’t use your EHIC or GHIC card in Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.
My EHIC has expired. How do I get a GHIC?
You can apply for a GHIC card up to six months before the expiry date on your EHIC - go to the NHS website.
You’ll need information to hand including your:
- National Insurance or NHS number (England and Wales)
- CHI number (Scotland)
- Health and Care number (Northern Ireland)
The GHIC card is free. So beware unofficial sites that charge a fee to receive one.
Does my child need a European health insurance card – or GHIC?
Yes, everyone in your travelling party should have their own separate EHIC (or GHIC), including babies and children. You’ll need to apply for a card for a child under 16, listing them as a dependant (over 16s can apply for themselves).
Do I also need travel insurance if I have an EHIC card?
Yes, you should have both.
The EHIC only gives access to treatment in state hospitals, not private medical facilities.
And travel insurance will cover expenses related to your medical issues and emergencies that the EHIC won’t. Things Iike:
- Having to cancel your holiday due to illness or accident
- Having to prolong your stay due to your medical needs, and for someone to stay with you if that’s medically necessary
- The cost of getting you home for medical reasons and any special assistance you may need - for example a medical escort to travel with you or an air ambulance
- The cost of paying for your journey home if an illness or accident means you have to cancel your original flights
The EHIC is only valid in EU countries and Switzerland. So if you’re travelling to anywhere else in the world - including countries like the USA where healthcare is very expensive - then travel insurance is essential to protect you from large medical expenses should something happen.
Travel insurance also covers other non-medical related incidents such as:
- Lost luggage
- Stolen items
- Cancellation due to issues that aren’t medically related
So it’s vital you have a travel insurance policy in place as well as an EHIC or GHIC card to cover every eventuality.
Can I apply for a new European health insurance card?
Some people can apply for a new UK EHIC instead of a GHIC, which can be used in EU countries plus Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
For example, if you are:
- an EU, Norwegian, Icelandic, Liechtenstein, or Swiss national, and started living in the UK before 1 January 2021
- receiving a UK State Pension, and started living in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland before 1 January 2021
- A UK student who started living and studying in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland before 1 January 2021
Find out if you're eligible to apply for a new UK EHIC on the NHS website.
Can I have a card if I live abroad?
A UK-issued EHIC (or GHIC) allows you to access healthcare in EU countries if you’re visiting or staying on a temporary basis, usually up to 90 days.
But if you’ve moved abroad on a permanent basis and have registered to live and work in another EU country or Switzerland, you can’t use your EHIC or GHIC to get healthcare.
Instead, you’ll need to register, and in many cases, make national insurance contributions to access healthcare in that country. Visit gov.uk to find out exactly how healthcare services work in the EU country you’re moving to.
You may be able to get an EHIC card from your new country of residence for use when you’re travelling on holiday to other EU countries though.
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