The European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) provides medical care access throughout Europe, with some constraints, to all 27 European Member States alongside Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. During the post-Brexit period, the EHIC is still valid in the UK, yet this is about to change as British residents will have other medical certificates.

Guaranteed medical care across European nations is one of the most important services offered to citizens of the region. That is the reason Europeans going to different countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) and the European Union (EU) just as Switzerland and the United Kingdom need to always carry their European Health Insurance Card along. The service is free for everyone and offers admittance to medical care for the whole EEA/EU region plus Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
This article provides significant insights for European citizens and travelers, including:

  • Where is the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) valid?
  • Which countries are covered by the EHIC?
  • What does the EHIC not cover?
  • Who can apply for the European Health Insurance Card?
  • What is the most effective method to get the EHIC?
  • How does the new Insurance Card work in practice?
  • How long is the EHIC valid?
  • The most effective method to renew the European Health Insurance Card
  • What will happen to British EHIC after Brexit?
  • ETIAS and Its role in Ensuring Public Health
  • Could ETIAS health insurance have helped stop the spread of COVID-19?

Where is the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) valid?

The EHIC provides access to medical care services in Europe. The card is a personal document and is not valid for other people except for the card owner.

While traveling abroad, the EHIC is the key to receiving health services in all EEA and EU territories, as well as Switzerland and the UK.

Which countries are covered by the European Health Insurance Card?

Below can be found an up-to-date list of countries where the European Health Insurance Card is valid:

EU countries:

Austria
Belgium
Bulgaria
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Hungary
Ireland
Italy
Latvia
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Malta
Netherlands
Poland
Portugal
Romania
San Marino
Slovakia
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden

EEA countries:

  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein.

Other countries:

  • Switzerland
  • The United Kingdom. Even though the UK has parted ways with the EU, the Card is still accepted by the NHS (the UK National Health System.) See more information at the end of the article on how this will change in the near future.

The European Health Insurance Card ensures the same level of medical care in all participating countries. EU citizens can utilize it on all territories mentioned above, no matter of their trip purpose – could be any of those – study, work, business, tourism, etc.

What does the European Health Insurance Card not cover?

Please note that the European Health Insurance Card is not equal to insurance, and not valid as such.

A list of expenses and conditions which will not accept the coverage offered by the EU Health Insurance Card:

  • A travel return ticket
  • Body repatriation
  • Personal baggage or other belongings theft or loss
  • Medical care and therapies that are considered premium/paid service in the originating country*
  • Expenses of therapies when the travel purpose was explicitly for health treatments.

* In the case that the local public medical system isn’t free, the Card’s owner will have to pay for care and treatment as local occupants are charged.

Who can apply for a European Health Insurance Card?

To get the EU Health Insurance Card, Europeans should meet any of these requirements:

  • Being covered by the public medical care system of any of the EU or EEA nations or Switzerland
  • Being a non-EU, EEA, or Swiss resident, however, being a citizen of one of the previously mentioned nations and being eligible for its local public medical services.

What is the most effective method to get the European Health Insurance Card?

The authority, issuing the cards on a national level, is the local health services provider. This implies that every country has its own framework to apply for and get European health care coverage.

Consequently, you must apply for the card in your country of citizenship or residency.

In most cases, the EU countries offer 3 options to apply – on the web, by telephone, or personally. You should contact your local medical authorities to get guidelines on the process that needs to be followed.

How does the European Health Insurance Card work in practice?

Whenever an EHIC holder happens to need medical help abroad, he or she just needs to present the card at the Reception of the hospital or emergency center.

Then, the document data and authenticity need to be confirmed, and afterward, the owner would get the same medical attention as local residents.

Therefore, you must remember to always carry the Card abroad with you as you travel and keep it with you consistently.

How long is the European Health Insurance Card valid?

In most cases, the European Health Insurance Card has a legitimacy of 2 years. You can easily check yourself as the expiration date is usually printed on the back.

The card validity may be influenced by a few elements, for example when the holder is:

  • a foreigner, temporarily residing in the EU, EEA, UK, or Switzerland
  • currently receiving public benefits
  • at the time of travelling in a difficult economic situation.

Europeans should pay attention to the fact that the EU Health Insurance Card’s legitimacy and how long an individual is qualified for general medical care while abroad in Europe are not related. Usually, medical care coverage while abroad in Europe is ensured for 3 months. However, there are some special cases, for example:

  • Students taking international courses or studies
  • Relocated workforce, moved by their employers for a prolonged time.

The most effective method to renew the European Health Insurance Card

Whenever a European Health Insurance Card expires, its holder should take the same process steps as requesting it initially.

What will happen to British EHIC after Brexit?

Following Brexit, the NHS has stopped issuing any new European Health Insurance Cards for British citizens. Nonetheless, current EHIC owners from the UK can still utilize their current cards in Europe while they expire.

Afterward, UK nationals can apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) that will give them admittance to European medical care while traveling.

The GHIC will replace the EHIC, is free of charge, and permits UK nationals to get treatment in Europe as well.

Brits just need to apply for a GHIC once their European Card terminates. As per the arrangement between the UK and the EU, the NHS will keep on accepting European Cards.

The European Commission and the UK government still encourage travelers to acquire additional health care coverage before their travel.

ETIAS and Its Role in Ensuring Public Health

The visa-free travel waiver – ETIAS becoming effective towards the end of 2022, doesn’t require medical travel insurance, e.g. ETIAS health insurance. However, travelers should in any case ensure they’re covered.

In order to apply for the ETIAS visa waiver for Europe, travelers will be asked to give basic personal data and passport details, including their nationality and country of residence.

This way, the ETIAS visa waiver will act also as kind of ETIAS health insurance (without being an actual insurance policy) ensuring further public health protection for the EU residents and visitors.

Could ETIAS health insurance have helped stop the spread of COVID-19?

Travel limitations have been seen recently during the Covid outbreak, and even though Coronavirus has spread to most nations across the world, including all over Europe.

Efforts to put the new infection under control included EU entry and travel restrictions for third-country nationals. Had ETIAS previously been set up, it would have assumed a critical part in identifying the nationality of travelers even before they arrive at the Schengen Area borderline.

Moreover, the previously mentioned questions in regards to health status would assist with recognizing individuals who might be already infected and prevent them from entering the EU.

These activities are per one of the main aims of ETIAS: completing an evaluation of whether the candidate represents a high epidemic risk.

Should a similar worldwide pandemic situation emerge later in the future, we all can hope that the transmission in Europe of infections starting abroad can be limited with the assistance of the ETIAS pre-screening measure.