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Home > Travel Insurance > Travel Insurance Guides > A Brit’s best travel companion: the European Health Insurance Card

A Brit’s best travel companion: the European Health Insurance Card

Anything can happen during your next European excursion; therefore, it’s important to prepare yourself for any unexpected medical expenses that might come up. When you apply for this simple, yet powerful, European health insurance policy, you receive proof of insurance in the form of an EHIC card that fits in your wallet just like a credit card. The EHIC card guarantees that British citizens receive free or discounted, state-provided treatment in countries throughout the European Union, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. An EHIC card is completely free for all British citizens, and you can renew it as often as you like. This card grants you basically the same healthcare coverage as the average citizen in the European country that you’re visiting. The EHIC card is also ideal for British students who are studying abroad to complete a university degree; in many countries, the student’s EHIC card remains valid for up to one year abroad.

What is an EHIC good for?

The European health insurance plan covers you for nearly every major health concern that requires treatment, and your coverage generally extends until the date of your scheduled return to the United Kingdom. You can even receive medical attention for pre-existing health conditions and maternity care unless you have travelled abroad to give birth. This insurance is primarily for emergency situations requiring immediate medical attention. In some cases, healthcare providers may require you to pay for your treatment upfront, and then you need to seek a refund for the expenses later when you return to the United Kingdom; therefore, remember to always keep your receipts as proof of what you paid in order to get a refund.

In countries like Germany, for example, children younger than 18 years old don’t have to pay any admission fee into hospitals while adults pay only 10 euros per day. For prescription medicines in Germany, the EHIC card lets you pay only 10 percent of the total cost; the minimum payment starts at just five euros. Those younger than 18 years old do not have to pay at all for prescription medications. These laws differ slightly from one country to the next, so it’s advisable to first check the specific coverage in the country you’re visiting to know what to expect before you go.

In countries like Spain, you can also receive dialysis and oxygen treatments with your EHIC card; however, routine treatments like these often need arranging through an appointment in advance. You may need to book an oxygen treatment up to a month before your trip. Such treatments sometimes also require you to submit an official letter of request to the authorities in order to make such an appointment, so research your destination’s policies and think ahead!

In all cases, it’s up to the doctor who sees you to decide what treatments are medically necessary or not. The EHIC card is only valid for something that the doctor deems is a required medical treatment for you. Most European countries have alternate provisions for healthcare of British expatriates in their country; the principle of the EHIC card is that it’s mainly for tourists on short-term stays abroad.

You can find the specific regulations for each country listed here: http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/countryguide/Pages/EEAcountries.aspx.

For further official information from each country, you can also visit www.gov.uk and search for updates related to the term “EHIC” to get the latest news and more helpful links.

What does European Health Insurance not cover?

Since each country in Europe has slightly different regulations, you cannot expect the same level of treatment everywhere. This type of health insurance won’t cover all types of medical care, and it definitely won’t cover any type of private health care. You’ll only get state-standard, medically necessary healthcare under this plan, so some people prefer to purchase additional travel insurance in order to receive more coverage with more healthcare options to choose from. Hospital visits and related expenses aren’t covered under the European Health Insurance Plan unless a doctor directly refers you to the hospital.

If you require emergency repatriation to seek further medical attention back in England, the European health insurance Policy won’t cover it. This benefit is, however, often included in other common travel insurance policies from private companies.

How do you get an EHIC card?

Go to your local post office to pick up your application for the EHIC card. This form is known as a “T7” leaflet, and you need to submit it at least six weeks before you depart from England to make sure your card will reach you in time. The application form also contains a comprehensive overview of the most current, common healthcare agreements and coverages throughout Europe.

You must declare all pre-existing health conditions when you apply for or renew your EHIC card. Anyone who fails to include this critical information can completely invalidate their policy by doing so.

You can also apply for your EHIC card online by visiting https://www.ehic.org.uk/Internet/startApplication.do.

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