If you live in a European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) country, or Switzerland, you may have heard rumors that you might have to apply for a European Health Insurance Card. Commonly known as the EHIC, this is the card that is used to access governmental healthcare in any of the EU or EEA countries, and in Switzerland.
When do you need an EHIC, though, and how can you go about applying for one if you do or trying to renew EHIC?
Do you travel outside your own country of residence? — You do not need to have an EHIC card in your country of residence. If you travel outside your own country of residence, a country that must be in the EU, EEA or be Switzerland, however, then you will need to apply for an EHIC.
This is because the EHIC allows you to access all healthcare you might need while in the EU, EEA or Switzerland. All healthcare that is free of charge to you. This includes any health problems caused by an accident or an illness, and even includes those health problems you may experience while outside your own country and that are related to a pre-existing condition.
What is not covered with an EHIC? — There is actually very little that is not covered with an EHIC card when outside your country of residence.
If you go skiing and have an accident that requires a mountain rescue, the rescue itself, including a helicopter rescue, will not be covered. Any resultant medical treatments that are needed will be covered.
You will also not be covered if you want to have treatment in a private medical facility and, if you require being flown home due to your health problems, the cost of the flight and any medical care or staff needed during it will not be covered either.
These reasons are why it is always recommended, even if you have the EHIC, you still do not leave your country of residence without a supplementary travel insurance policy.
Do you have to pay for an EHIC? — No, you do not. The EHIC is free, as long as you are covered for universal healthcare in your country of residence.
How to apply for the EHIC? — The application process is simple, and only requires a few minutes to complete. It can also be carried out on the Internet, via one of the online websites each of the EU and EEA countries and Switzerland have available for their residents.
Once you have applied for the card and your application has been processed, the EHIC will be mailed to you. The length of time it takes is dependent on when you apply but, in most cases, rarely takes longer than two weeks. Just be sure you apply for the EHIC at least a month before you are due to travel overseas, and you should have few or no problems receiving it in time.