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MEMO/11/406

Brussels, 16th June 2011

Health: getting ready for the holidays – always travel with your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)?

On holidays… expect the unexpected.

Are you planning on travelling in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland? If so, don't forget your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The card can help you save time, hassle and money if you fall ill or suffer an injury while abroad. Close to 185 million cards are in circulation according to figures published today by the European Commission.

Here are some facts and figures 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 EU country than my own?

The European Health Insurance Card makes it easier for people insured in one of the European Union’s 27 Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland to access healthcare services during temporary visits in one of these countries.

The card ensures that these citizens will get the same access to public sector healthcare (e.g. a doctor, a pharmacy or a hospital) as people insured in the country they are visiting. If they have to receive treatment in a country that charges for healthcare, they will be reimbursed there 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), applications for an EHIC can even be submitted through a text messaging system (SMS)! In Austria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland and, since 2010 the Netherlands, the EHIC is issued automatically to all insured people.

Some websites are known to be offering the European Health Insurance Card in exchange for money. Please note that the card is available free of charge through your local health authority.

Find out how to apply for a card in your country at: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=563&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, the card will be issued immediately (HU, PL, EL, CY, LV, BE, NL), in others it takes a few working days (EE, SE, RO, FI, UK, PT, DK, NO, IS, CH, IE, MT, AT, FR, SI, ES). In a limited number of countries (IT, SK and LI) it takes 13 or 15 days on average to receive the EHIC. Finally, in some countries (BG, LU) it can take up to four 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 long is the card valid for?

The length of the period of validity of the EHIC varies significantly from country to country.

There are countries which issue the EHIC only for several months (in Poland and Romania). Some countries issue the EHIC for a few years. For example, Greece, France and Slovenia issue it for one year on average; Finland, Spain and Iceland issue it for two years; Sweden, Liechtenstein, Portugal, Latvia, Norway, Switzerland, Lithuania and Malta for 3 years. There are also countries such as the Czech Republic and Austria that issue EHICs for up to 10 years depending on the category of insured person.

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) according to the most recent figures provided by Member States and published today by the European Commission. This is over 37% of the total EU population and roughly the same number as last year.

Country

EHIC issued in 2010

EHIC in circulation

PRC1

Austria

4 668 472

8 135 742

4 860

Belgium

2 237 069

2 831 623

45 768

Bulgaria

243 694

303 041

49 663

Cyprus

52 812

447892

30

Czech Republic

5 000 000

10 000 000

0

Denmark

334 395

1 300 000

0

Estonia

55 790

1000053

13 050

Finland

130 030

691 996

10 497

France

4 941 645

4 941 645

1 682 000

Germany

04

45 000 0005

0

Greece

181 487

159 793

26 590

Hungary

455 608

683 839

22 590

Iceland

36 389

55 038

532

Ireland

261 423

1 337 702

58 437

Italy

7 820 7896

59 517 0007

214 365

Latvia

50 923

103 076

452

Liechtenstein

1 077

36 558

48

Lithuania

100 526

216 587

7 295

Luxembourg

163 509

477 156

15 230

Malta

50 391

146 481

41

Netherlands

2 455 882

3 099 093

6 259

Norway

511 711

1 302 881

8 830

Poland

1 306 171

853 248

16 339

Portugal

404 654

1 211 502

24 049

Romania

239 644

123 690

11 768

Slovakia

216 042

1 802 820

80 151

Slovenia

607 510

589 857

161 262

Spain

1 957 944

1 938 974

867 336

Sweden

1 100 000

3 000 000

14 000

Switzerland

4 400 000

10 300 000

0

U.K.

4 725 295

25 506 048

12 000

Total

80 322 760

184 712 071

3 353 442

Total EHIC + PRC

188 065 513

Are Europeans aware of the EHIC?

A 2010 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).

1 :

Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland did not provide any data on PRC at least from 2008, therefore no estimation has been regarded in total number of PRC issued. For those countries 0 has been calculated.

2 :

In 2011 and 2010 the data were not available. In its reply to the 2009 questionnaire, Cyprus calculated the number of EHICs in circulation in 2008 as 44789.

3 :

In its reply to the 2008 questionnaire, Estonia calculated the number of EHICs in circulation as 100005.

4 :

Germany did not provide any data on EHICs issued at least from 2008, therefore no estimation has been regarded in total number of EHICs issued. For Germany 0 has been calculated.

5 :

In 2011 and 2010 the data was not available. In its reply to the 2009 questionnaire, Germany estimated the number of EHICs in circulation in 2008 around 45 000 000. This number has been used also for this table.

6 :

In 2011 the data were not available. In its reply to the 2010 questionnaire, Italy replied that 7 820 789 EHICs were issued in 2009. The number from 2009 has also been used for this table.

7 :

The national report from Italy (C.A.SS.TM note 102/11) provided the number of EHICs in circulation equal to 59517. From the previous EHIC reports (for years 2009 and 2010) it is however clear that the previously provided number should have been multiplied by 1000.


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