European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

Get an EHIC to receive free or discounted medical treatment in countries within the European Economic Area (EEA). It’s just as invaluable as travel insurance.

Amy Smith
Updated 14 October 2019 | 4 min read

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EHICs explained

Your EHIC entitles you to free, or reduced-rate, medical treatment in all EEA countries. That's the European Union plus Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

Although it’s free, you don’t get an EHIC automatically - you need to apply for it.

Key points

  • Although it’s free, you don’t get an EHIC automatically - you need to apply for it
  • An EHIC isn't a replacement for travel insurance
  • Each member of a travelling party needs their own EHIC
  • You can get your free EHIC through the NHS website

Your EHIC isn't a replacement for travel insurance

It’s a useful addition. But it won't cover you for care in private medical facilities, or repatriation back to the UK if you need it.

Most EU countries don't have healthcare systems like the NHS, so you'll only be able to get private treatment.

Without travel insurance, you'd have to cover those costs for yourself.

If the UK leaves the European Union (EU) without a deal, your access to healthcare in the EU will probably change, so it’s even more important you get the right travel insurance

What an EHIC covers

Your EHIC entitles you to the same level of state medical care offered to nationals of the EEA country you’re in.

That doesn’t always mean you’ll get free treatment.

The level of state care varies between countries, so don’t expect to be treated the same as if you visited a doctor or hospital in the UK.

The healthcare you receive is either free or at a reduced cost, depending on what a resident would receive.

Pre-existing medical conditions and routine maternity care is covered, so long as you haven’t travelled to your destination to intentionally give birth or seek treatment.

EHICs are available to most UK residents

But Channel Island and Isle of Man residents can't get an EHIC.

Parents and guardians can apply for children under the age of 16, and each person travelling must have their own card.

Applying for an EHIC

You can apply for an EHIC on the NHS website - it’s free.

There are websites that'll try to charge you to manage your EHIC application. But the process is easy. You shouldn’t need to pay for help.

It could take a week or two for your application to be processed and the card posted to you.

Your card's valid for five years. After that, you'll need to renew it.

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