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Travel safely - carry your health card - 16/06/2011

Free European Health Insurance Card eases access to medical care in 27 EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

A jellyfish sting, an allergic reaction, a broken leg, or a more serious injury or illness can suddenly turn a holiday or business trip abroad into a nightmare.

Coping with the immediate problem is hard enough. Dealing with an unfamiliar healthcare system and the additional costs of an emergency can make things even more difficult.

Carrying a European Health Insurance Card makes it easier to obtain medical help when travelling within the EU.

EU citizens benefit from an agreement among the 27 member countries – along with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – under which they are entitled to social security benefits when working, living or travelling in any of these countries.

This includes being able to access the same health services and benefits provided to nationals of the country they are visiting.

Equal treatment

The health card proves to doctors, hospitals and pharmacies that the visitor is entitled to equal treatment.

Depending on the laws of the country they are visiting, healthcare may often be free. And if they have to pay anything, charges will be refunded.

Cover also includes care for pregnant women, and the ongoing management of pre-existing or chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or cancer.

Arrangements may have to be made in advance for access to special services, such as dialysis treatment.

Without the card, travellers are still entitled to equal treatment, but may have to get their healthcare provider at home to fax or email a provisional certificate.

They may also have to pay all costs up front and submit a claim when they return home, but are not guaranteed a full refund.

Get the card, it's easy

Your European Health Insurance Card is available for free. Contact your local health provider for information on how to get one. You must already be covered by the social security system in one of the 31 countries.

People who go to one of these countries to study or to work temporarily as part of their job are also covered.

Close to 185 million people hold this card.

More on EU social security coordination

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