More than 200 million Europeans have the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which is around 40% of the total insured population in the reporting Member States, according to the latest available figures for 2015. The card is valid in the 28 EU countries plus Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
The EHIC, available free of charge, confirms that a person is entitled to receive medical treatment that becomes necessary on a temporary stay abroad from the host country's public healthcare system on the same terms and at the same cost as nationals of that country. The EHIC cannot be used to cover planned medical treatment in another country.
Hospitals that provide public health services are obliged to recognise the EHIC. In the vast majority of cases, patients presenting the EHIC receive the necessary healthcare and are reimbursed without any problems.
Citizens should be aware that the card is issued for free by their national health insurance provider in the home country, without any need of paying charges to intermediaries who offer help for the application process, as it has been reported to happen in some countries. Citizens should report such cases to the national health insurance authorities.
In case the EHIC is not accepted, patients should contact the relevant health authority in the country they are visiting. The emergency contact numbers are easily accessible via the EHIC application for smartphones and tablets. In case of further refusal, patients should request support from their home country's health authorities.
The European Commission continues to raise awareness about the card, and encourages Member States to do the same. The Commission produced a new EHIC promotional video.
The EHIC application gives information about the card, emergency phone numbers, treatments that are covered and costs, how to claim reimbursement and who to contact in case you have lost your card. You can also find extra information about dialysis, oxygen and chemotherapy. In addition, in this year's update, you can also find more about how to apply for the EHIC online and which hospitals and doctors accept the card.
The app is available in 25 languages, with the option to switch from one language to another. However, the app does not replace the EHIC.