The European Health Insurance Card, formerly called E111, is a « must have » when travelling in any EEA country or Switzerland. It allows you to benefit from state-provided healthcare on temporary stays. Thanks to the EHIC, you can access treatment on the same basis as would a resident of that country, for free in many cases, or at reduced cost, depending on the country that provide the treatment.
Although the EHIC is very important during your trips, it must not be mistaken with a proper health insurance nor any travel insurance. Indeed, it only helps to create a link between the establishment that provides your treatment and your home insurance, and does not cover private care such as mountain rescue.
The aim of the EHIC scheme is to allow you to access medical treatment that is medically necessary for you to continue your stay abroad without returning home for medical care. For this reason, it does not cover medical healthcare that can be delayed until you return, such as dental treatment. It also covers care for chronic or pre-existing medical conditions that would become necessary during your visit, along with routine maternity care, but only if the treatment was not the initial reason for your visit.
The EHIC card is valid 5 years, at the end of which you’ll need to ask for a renewal (at least 6 months before its expiration date). If lost, stolen or damaged, a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) may be issued, granting the same cover as an original EHIC would do, until you return home.
It is free of charge if you apply for it on the official NHS website. Non-official websites are entitled to provide it as well but may charge various fees.
Before applying, make sure you are entitled to an EHIC. Any UK-resident is eligible to a UK-issued EHIC, however non-UK nationals will have to prove their UK residency thanks to a copy of their visa or UK residence permit. Non-UK residents may still be eligible under certain circumstances. Students studying abroad must ask for a specific student EHIC.
The application process if very simple and require only a few steps. It can be made online by creating an account on the official website, over the phone or by post, by providing only a few personal details.