Packing correctly for your time abroad is a must, perhaps the most important item of all is your European Health Insurance Card which grants you access to healthcare across Europe.
When travelling to another country there’s a million things to remember, not to mention your ID/passport. But it’s also a good idea to think about what can happen once you arrive. If you fall ill while away, your ID won’t be enough – you’ll need your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
How does it work?
This card is designed to ensure that you can obtain medically necessary, state‑provided healthcare while holidaying, studying or volunteering anywhere in the EU (as well as Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) should you unexpectedly get sick.
The EHIC doesn’t replace travel insurance, but while you are in a foreign country it guarantees you medical treatment under the same conditions and at the same cost as locals insured in that country. If the medical treatment is free for local residents, you will not have to pay. If the country requires payment, you can either ask for reimbursement there, or put in a claim with your health insurer back home. Always remember that the expenses are reimbursed according to the rules of the country where you receive the treatment and each country’s healthcare system is different. So, services that cost you nothing at home might not be free in another country.
It’s advisable that you take up an additional health insurance, particularly for situations that are not covered by the EHIC. For example, if you need a rescue team, private healthcare or a trip to come back home that is not covered by the EHIC.
Where can you get it?
This service is available to anyone insured by or covered by a state social security system in the EU 27, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. The personal card can be easily obtained from your local health authority in your country of residence – just check out your national service online.
In order to make your life easier too, the European Health Insurance Card has developed an app jam-packed with all the information you’ll need to know when away from home. The smartphone app acts as a guide for users of the EHIC, detailing practical advice helpful for unexpected situations abroad - including the 112 Europe-wide emergency number and an outline of potential treatment costs. This app, compatible with iOS, Android and Windows 7 mobile, comes in 24 languages; it even allows you to switch between languages, making communication a lot easier if you haven’t gotten round to taking those language courses yet.
Anna is covered by the statutory health insurance in EU country A and is spending a few months in EU country B to finish her studies. She has her European Health Insurance Card with her, issued in country A. She is pregnant and will give birth while in country B. Pregnancy and childbirth are considered urgent medical care, so Anna will get the necessary medical assistance in country B when she presents her European Health Insurance Card and identity card.
Anna will be treated in country B as if she were insured in that country. This means that if treatment is free for people insured there, it will be free for Anna too. If it is a system where people pay and then apply for reimbursement, Anna will pay the same fees as locally insured people, then apply for reimbursement. She should apply for reimbursement in country B, where she will be reimbursed at the same rate as people insured there (country B will then liaise with health authorities in country A, where Anna is insured, to get their money back).