The European Health Insurance Card is an essential part of any traveller’s kit and it will help you access medical care anywhere within the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, with a few exceptions. You do need to make sure your card is valid, however.
When the card is issued, it is valid for five years and it is in your interests to ensure that you renew your card in plenty of time, especially if you travel regularly and find yourself unable to renew it at the last moment. If you need a swift renewal then it can be useful to enlist the help of a third party provider, who can navigate the red tape and ensure that your renewal is dealt with swiftly and efficiently and you are not forced to travel without an EHIC card.
Change that E111 now
If you still have an E111 then it’s definitely time for an EHIC renewal as your old form is simply no longer valid. If you are applying for your first EHIC card then you need to provide your National Insurance Number, as well as your date of birth and other basic information. You will be issued a PIN Number, which can help speed up your renewal process, although it is not essential to keep it safe.
If you have a valid EHIC card you cannot apply for a European health insurance card renewal until six months before it expires. When you go through the renewal process the time remaining on the old card will not be added to the new one; you will simply receive a new card that is valid for five years from the date it is issued.
EHIC skirts the red tape
The EHIC card replaced the old E111 in 2006 and has been widely adopted by participating countries in the European Economic Area as a simple method of proving that you are entitled to basic and emergency medical care in your home nation. With the reciprocal agreement that is in place between the nations, that means you can access state-provided healthcare in the country you are visiting and it will either be free or provided at a reduced cost, depending on the individual country’s healthcare system.
It covers emergency care and treatment for chronic pre-existing conditions that require urgent care during your visit. This system has enabled a huge number of British citizens to seek the help they need while overseas without the fear of a huge bill, which could prevent a number of people travelling in the first place.
Not every country is the same
Of course you should make the relevant checks before you travel to a new country, as each nation’s healthcare system is different and things that may be available for free on the NHS simply are not covered in some cases. You should also make sure you have proper travel insurance in place, as the EHIC card, fantastic as it is, does not provide total cover for things like repatriation and costs incurred as a result of your illness or injury.
Most of all, make sure your EHIC renewal has been done in plenty of time as a valid EHIC card could save you a huge bill the next time you go abroad.