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IP/09/1108

Brussels, 9 July 2009

180 million Europeans will benefit from the EU Health Insurance Card this summer

As the summer holiday season gets underway, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) – now held by 180 million Europeans - is celebrating its fifth birthday. Citizens from 31 European countries can use the card to get the medical care they need if they fall ill or have an accident in one of the participating countries (the EU, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland). Around 35% of Europeans now hold an EHIC, which simplifies procedures and cuts red tape for necessary medical treatment during a temporary stay abroad.

"On a summer holiday, we all expect rest and relaxation, but for an unlucky few it can mean accident and emergency," said Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs Vladimír Špidla. "The European Health Insurance Card brings peace of mind to millions of people travelling in the EU. With the card, they can enjoy their holidays without worrying about expensive treatment or complicated procedures should they fall ill or have an accident in another European country."

The EHIC covers all health care which is needed during a temporary stay in one of the 31 participating countries, be it for travel, work or studies. In case of illness or accident, the card entitles the holder to the same medical treatment - and on the same basis - as a local patient. It is as if they were insured in the country they are visiting. However, the EHIC can only be used in the framework of public health care provision and does not replace supplementary travel insurance.

The card was introduced progressively between June 2004 and December 2005 to replace the previous paper form called the “E111”, and is now held by 180 million citizens, or 35% of Europeans.

However, there are significant differences between countries: in Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Switzerland, almost the entire population has an EHIC, while in Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Poland and Spain, less than 5% has one. This difference can be partly explained by the fact that in some countries, such as Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic, the EHIC has been integrated on the reverse side of the national sickness insurance card.

Although individual Member States are responsible for the distribution of the EHIC and issue it in their national language, the card shares a common design. So it is easily recognisable for medical staff, even if they do not speak the same language.

To further raise awareness of the card, the European Commission is running an information campaign, concentrating on countries where the use of the card is lowest. The campaign includes poster advertising, distribution of leaflets and participation at key events, such as medical and travel fairs. Tools are also available for national authorities to run their own campaigns.

State

EHIC issued in 2008

EHIC in circulation on 31/12/08

(3) population 1/1/08

(4) % cards

Belgium

1.657.700

2.370.593

10.666.866

22,2%

Bulgaria

91.450

116.902

7.640.238

1,5%

Czech Rep

1.087.637

9.487.146

10.381.130

91,4%

Denmark

894.130

891.814

5.475.791

16,3%

Germany

Not available

45.000.000

82.217.837

54,7%

Estonia

100.005

100.005

1.340.935

7,5%

Greece

103.669

92.930

11.213.785

0,8%

Spain

1.657.826

1.748.578

45.283.259

3,9%

France

4.787.222

4.787.222

63.753.140

7,5%

Ireland

341.520

1.317.512

4.401.335

29,9%

Italy

7.440.691

58.160.655

59.619.290

97,6%

Cyprus

44.789

44.789

789.258

5,7%

Latvia

50.458

40.135

2.270.894

1,8%

Lithuania

78.229

179.472

3.366.357

5,3%

Luxembourg

89.049

401.177

483.799

82,9%

Hungary

401.601

555.196

10.045.401

5,5%

Malta

37.435

151.901

410.290

37,0%

Netherlands

3.011.101

1.944.786

16.405.399

11,9%

Austria

732.397

8.002.825

8.331.930

96,1%

Poland

1.231.071

627.919

38.115.641

1,6%

Portugal

349.164

883.133

10.617.575

8,3%

Romania

36.210

12.298

21.528.627

0,1%

Slovakia

298.102

1.502.404

5.400.998

27,8%

Slovenia

663.189

560.642

2.025.866

27,7%

Finland

295.339

446.577

5.300.484

8,4%

Sweden

1.100.000

3.000.000

9.182.927

32,7%

United Kingdom

3.776.746

30.502.473

61.185.981

49,9%

Switzerland

2.400.000

7.500.000

7.593.494

98,8%

Liechtenstein

1.115

35.000

35.356

99,0%

Norway

464.824

1.303.154

4.737.171

27,5%

Iceland

45.277

124.019

313.376

39,6%

Total

33.267.946

181.891.257

510.134.430

35,7%

(Column 3) from Eurostat, population statistics

(Column 4) This is the percentage of cards over the population

Further information

EHIC website

http://ehic.europa.eu

EHIC information campaign, including posters

http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?langId=en&catId=698

Video News Release on the EHIC

http://www.tvlink.org/vnr.cfm?vidID=295


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