A European Health Insurance Card or EHIC is available to residents of European Economic Area (EEA) countries, as well as Switzerland. It enables travellers to have access to medical treatment in countries within the same area, often under the same terms they would be subject to in their country of residence, or a lot of the time completely free of charge. Under the regulations of the EHIC, the patient’s medical costs are covered, or subsidised, until they arrive home.
How is eligibility calculated?
This is worked out according to the subject’s insurability under the law of the European Union, rather than simply by the nationality of a person. In the UK, this means residency is usually the determining factor, rather than National Insurance payments or UK tax contributions. This reflects the residency-based nature of the UK healthcare system.
All this means that if you a resident of the UK, whether you are currently in employment or not, it is more than likely that under EU law you will be insured by the UK, and thus eligible to be a holder of an EHIC card.
Who may not be eligible?
There are a number of circumstances in which it is recommended that an applicant contact us before beginning their European Health Insurance Card application to confirm their eligibility. These are listed as: a pensioner in a different country to where they receive their state pension, a student studying abroad in an EEA country, a student that has come to the UK from overseas to study, a worker living in a foreign post but employed by a UK company, a person who lives in a country but works overseas, a person with multiple residences in different countries, a person that works in multiple counties, a person who is a national of a country other than an EEA country or Switzerland.
For applicants that fall into these categories, you are encouraged to get in touch with our enquiry team. They can be reached via our contact form, and they will be best placed to advise you on whether or not you meet the guidelines to be eligible to become an EHIC card holder.
Are there other EHIC cards?
If it turns out you do not meet the criteria for a UK EHIC card, don’t despair. It is possible that you could be in line for an EHIC card issued by an EEA country other than the UK, or indeed Switzerland, depending on your insurance details.
It is possible to lose your eligibility?
This occurs when you lose your entitlement to it, but continue to use the card. In this case you might be liable for the treatment costs in full. Entitlement can sometimes be lost when you move abroad or take up a foreign job post.
Be clear on insurance
It is important to understand that EHIC is not the same, or does not replace travel insurance. Savvy travellers will have a valid EHIC card and a private travel insurance policy arranged before they leave the UK on their travels.