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The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

European Commission - MEMO/08/499   14/07/2008

Other available languages: FR

MEMO/08/499

Brussels, 14 July 2008

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

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.

Country
EHIC in circulation 31/12/2007
% population holding an EHIC
BE
1 907 993
18
BG
104 871
1
CZ
8 400 000
82
DK
849 903
16
DE
45 000 000
55
EE
99 590
8
GR
104 326
1
ES
1 729 962
4
FR
4 631 709
8
IE
1 066 476
25
IT
56 981 277
97
CY
32 077
4
LV
32 884
1
LT
142 002
4
LU
401 421
80
HU
431 089
4
MT
120 781
30
NL
768 878
5
AT
7 967 193
96
PL
555 761
1
PT
667 827
6
RO
55 000
0
SI
251 084
13
SK
799 575
15
SE
2 900 000
32
FI
361 378
7
UK
27 500 000
46
CH
7 000 000
96
IS
78 770
39
LI
35 317
99
NO
2 021 197
46
Total
172 998 041
36

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.


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