The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
European Commission - MEMO/08/499 14/07/2008
Other available languages: FR
Brussels, 14 July 2008
What does the EHIC cover?
The EHIC covers all health care which is needed during a temporary stay in one of the 31 participating countries other than the country of residence, be it for travel, for work or for studies. The card entitles you, in case of illness or accident, to the same medical treatment and on the same basis as local patients, as if you were insured in the state of stay.
As each Member State has its own rules for public medical provision, the EHIC covers free medical treatment in some Member States, whilst in other Member States it covers reduced cost medical treatment. Some Member States may provide care free at the point of use (such as Spain or the United Kingdom), while others may require payment, to be claimed back later (such as Belgium or France).
The EHIC can only be used in the framework of public health care provision. Private health care providers (hospitals, doctors, pharmacists, dentists, etc.) can therefore refuse the EHIC.
In which countries can I use the EHIC?
The EHIC is valid in 31 European countries. These include the 27 European Union countries (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom) as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
Where can I obtain the EHIC?
Each Member State is responsible for the distribution of the EHIC on its territory. Therefore each Member State has its own distribution procedures. In some cases the card can be ordered online. People should contact their local sickness insurance institution or equivalent for further information.
Who is entitled to an EHIC?
All European citizens who are covered by a public sickness insurance scheme of one of the EEA States or of Switzerland, is entitled to an EHIC.
Nationals of third countries who are legally residing in one of the EU Member States (except Denmark) are also entitled. However, they cannot use their card in Denmark, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
How many people have an EHIC?
Almost 173 million people in Europe now have an EHIC. This is around 36% of the total EU population.
However, there are significant differences between Member States. In Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein almost the whole population has an EHIC, while in Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, Poland, Spain, Cyprus less than 5% of the population has one.
Why does the level of cards issued differ so much?
This difference can be partly explained by the fact that in some countries, such as Italy and Austria, the EHIC has been integrated on the reverse side of the national sickness insurance card. In general, the EHIC is more widely known in those countries which have been members of the European Union longer and less well known in the newer member states.
In addition, some national authorities have run specific information campaigns to raise awareness of the card in their countries. The European Commission works with Member States to support these activities and will from Autumn 2008 step up its activities to raise awareness of the card both among health care providers and the general public.