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MEMO/10/292

Brussels, 1st July 2010

Health: getting ready for the holidays – have you got your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)?

Whether in another Member State for a business trip, short break or studying abroad, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can help save time, hassle and money if you fall ill or suffer an injury while abroad. To help holiday planning, here are some facts, figures and information on the European Health Insurance Card.

What is the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and what happens if I have an accident or get ill when I'm in another Member State?

The European Health Insurance Card makes it easier for people from the European Union’s 27 Member States plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland to access healthcare services during temporary visits abroad.

The card ensures that citizens will get the same access to public sector healthcare (e.g. a doctor, a pharmacy or a hospital) as nationals of the country they are visiting. If they have to receive treatment in a country that charges for healthcare, they will be reimbursed as soon as possible, or after returning home. The idea is that people are given the care they need to continue their stay. Planned treatment is not covered by the European Health Insurance Card, but requires previous authorisation.

Can I apply for a European Health Insurance Card?

To be eligible for a card, you must be insured by or covered by a state social security system in any country of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. Each separate member of a family travelling should have their own card.

How do I apply for a European Health Insurance Card?

Each country is responsible for producing and distributing the card on its own territory. So, to get a card, you must contact your local health authority. In most countries, there are several ways to apply for an EHIC: in person, by e-mail, by letter, by fax, by phone or online. In some countries (SE, NO, SL), applications for an EHIC can also be submitted through a text messaging system (SMS). The UK has introduced an automated voice recognition system on the application telephone lines. In Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy and Switzerland, the EHIC is issued automatically to all people insured. The card is free.

Find national information and contacts at:

http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=566&langId=en

How long does it take to get a European Health Insurance Card?

The delay for receiving a card varies from one country to another. In some countries, in the case of an in-person application the card will be issued immediately (BE, CY, ES, LT, HU, IS). In other countries, it can take up to 4 weeks.

What happens if I forget my card or I don't receive it in time?

If the need arises, you will still receive the treatment necessary to enable you to continue your holiday without having to return home for treatment. But the card will make it easier for you to access free medical care on the spot, when available, or for you to be reimbursed if you have to pay up front. You can also ask your local authority for a provisional replacement certificate if the card is not available on time. If you are abroad, you may ask for a provisional replacement certificate to be faxed to you.

More information on the European Health Insurance Card is available at: http://ehic.europa.eu

How many people have a European Health Insurance Card? Here are some new figures from national administrations:

Over 188 million people in Europe now have an EHIC (or a replacement certificate), that is 3.2% more than in 2008, according to the most recent figures provided by Member States. This is around 37% of the total EU population.

Country

Provisional replacement certificates issued in 2009

EHIC in circulation 31/12/09

Population 1/1/08

% of card holders

Belgium

50.374

2.466.449

10.666.866

23%

Bulgaria

26.021

123.282

7.640.238

1.6%

Czech Rep

Not available

9.664.648

10.381.130

93%

Denmark

Not available

1.142.115

5.475.791

20.8%

Germany

Not available

45.000.000

82.217.837

54.8%

Estonia

11.049

100.005

1.340.935

7.5%

Greece

17.263

115.796

11.213.785

1%

Spain

182.718

1.779.336

45.283.259

4%

France

1.542.000

4.616.843

63.753.140

7.2%

Ireland

52.441

1.493.333

4.401.335

34%

Italy

176.414

58.196.144

59.619.290

97.6%

Cyprus

37

44.789

789.258

5.7%

Latvia

372

52.288

2.270.894

2.3%

Lithuania

4.966

191.712

3.366.357

5.7%

Luxembourg

11.508

457.375

483.799

94.5%

Hungary

28.388

572.222

10.045.401

5.7%

Malta

15

138.438

410.290

33.7%

Netherlands

88.367

3.648.290

16.405.399

22.2%

Austria

Not available

8.033.287

8.331.930

96.4%

Poland

17.555

779.176

38.115.641

2%

Portugal

25.133

1.166.540

10.617.575

11%

Romania

50.400

111.008

21.528.627

0.5%

Slovakia

162.961

1.756.361

5.400.998

32.5%

Slovenia

147.526

523.205

2.025.866

25.8%

Finland

10.182

556.489

5.300.484

10.5%

Sweden

17.000

3.200.000

9.182.927

34.8%

United Kingdom

9.685

33.827.200

61.185.981

55%

Switzerland

Not available

6.500.000

7.593.494

85.6%

Liechtenstein

38

34.980

35.356

98.9%

Norway

Not available

1.303.154

4.737.171

27.5%

Iceland

380

62.829

313.376

20%

Total

2.556.830

187.657.294

510.134.430

36.8%

However, there are significant differences in the percentage of holders of an EHIC over the resident population from one country to another, as illustrated below.

Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED

Are Europeans aware of the EHIC?

A recent Eurobarometer survey shows that people are not always aware of the EHIC, even if they have one. 26% of respondents say they have an EHIC, compared to 37% of the population who actually hold a card. This may also depend on the fact that in Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy and Switzerland, the EHIC is issued automatically to all people insured.

The fact of having lived, worked or studied abroad has some influence on the likelihood that people have the card.

Asked why they do not hold an EHIC, 68% of respondents without the card say they have never heard of it, and know nothing about it. The next most frequent given reason is that people have separate travel insurance and therefore do not need an EHIC (11%). Five percent of respondents said they could not be bothered with it, and the same proportion feels they do not need an EHIC because they can be reimbursed for health costs without it.

Of those who do have a card, two thirds always take it with them when travelling in Europe. The most common reason for not taking the card is forgetting it at home (28% of those who did not take it with them).

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2008 figure, 2009 figure not available

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