The European Health Insurance Card makes it easier for people from the European Union’s 28 Member States plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland to access health and medical care services during temporary visits abroad.
If you are going on holiday, a business trip or a short break or are heading off to study abroad, remember to make sure that you have obtained a card. It will help save you time and money if you fall ill or suffer an injury while abroad.
What are the practical benefits of the card?
The card ensures that you will get the same access to necessary medical treatment under public sector health care (e.g. a doctor, a pharmacy, a hospital or a health care centre) as nationals of the country you are visiting. If you have to receive medical attention in a country that charges for health care, you will be reimbursed either immediately, or after you go home to your own country. The idea is that you are given the care you need to allow you to continue with your stay.
However, it is important to note that the card does not cover your health care costs while abroad if you are travelling in order to obtain treatment for an illness or injury that you had before travelling. Nor does the card cover you for private sector health care providers.
June is an Irish national and is resident in Ireland. She plans to go to Spain for a short holiday. While she is in good health, she is worried about healthcare if she becomes ill while abroad. As a citizen of the EU, does she have any entitlement to healthcare in Spain or in any other Member State of the EU?
As a resident of an EU Member State, June is entitled to free or reduced cost necessary medical treatment in any EU country as well as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. If she falls ill, she should present at the nearest public hospital with her European Health Insurance Card. She will be given the same medical treatment as a Spanish national would receive.
Only publicly funded treatment is included in the European Health Insurance Card scheme – each country operates its own rules for medical provision. In some countries, medical treatment is free, in others you pay part of the cost; in others you pay the total cost and then claim a refund.
Where can I obtain a European Health Insurance Card?
You have the following options in applying for your European Health Insurance Card:
You can apply online at www.ehic.ie
You can apply in person by completing an application form at your local Health Office
To apply by post, ask for an application form at your local Health Office, Community Care office or Health Centre. An application form can be posted to you from these offices or you can download it from www.ehic.ie. Return the completed forms to your local Health Office.
If I am resident outside Ireland but receive my pension from Ireland, where do I apply for my European Health Insurance Card?
You should apply for your European Health Insurance Card from the country where you are paying to or benefiting from the social security system. This will not necessarily be your State of residence.
In practice this means that the HSE has to issue the EHIC for all Irish insured persons or pensioners and their dependant’s resident in other member States, e.g. a retired person receiving a contributory pension from the Department of Social Welfare but who lives in Spain should apply for his EHIC to the Irish authorities.
Is it necessary to obtain travel insurance in addition to the European Health Insurance Card?
It is advisable to take out travel insurance in addition to the European Health Insurance Card. Few countries pay the total cost of medical treatment even under reciprocal health service arrangements. Illness or accident abroad may mean extra travel, accommodation and repatriation costs for which you should be insured. Certain travel insurers will only honour a travel insurance claim for medical costs if the policy holder can produce evidence of the European Health Insurance Card.
Who should I call in case of emergency?
112 is the single European emergency number, reachable everywhere in the EU, from landlines and mobile phones, free of charge. 112 links the caller to the relevant emergency service (local police, fire brigade or medical services) and is available 24-hours a day. 112 is now operational in all EU member states alongside existing national emergency numbers (like 999 or 110). 112 is also being used in a few countries outside the EU, such as Montenegro and Turkey.
For further information go to: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/112/index_en.htm
What if I have a pre-existing medical condition requiring weekly medical treatment e.g. diabetes. Is it possible to visit a doctor in another State and who is responsible for the cost?
The cover provided by the European Health Insurance Card is not limited to emergency treatment. You should produce your European Health Insurance Card to the hospital to obtain the treatment. You may require supporting evidence from your GP of your condition and as a consequence, you are recommended to bring a letter from your doctor confirming your condition.
Does a student undertaking studies in another Member State have an entitlement to healthcare there?
Students are entitled to all health care benefits in kind e.g. healthcare and medicine during their studies in another Member State. To ensure that students can avail of these benefits, they should obtain a European Health Insurance Card from the health authorities in their home State prior to departure. Students are regarded as retaining their habitual residence in their home State and students are treated as “staying” in the country of study. In these circumstances, the Commission has taken the view that the EHIC issued to students by their home State is valid and it guarantees to students as persons insured in another Member State “any benefits in kind which become necessary on medical grounds during their stay, taking account of the nature of the benefits and the expected length of stay”.
When returning the application form, it should be accompanied by a letter from the student’s college confirming that the overseas semesters are part of a registered course.
If the student becomes ill while abroad, he should produce the European Health Insurance Card to the medical staff he consults at his local public hospital.
Where can I obtain further information on the European Health Insurance Card?
Further information on the European Health Insurance Card can be obtained from the following website: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=559&langId=en