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According to a study just published by the European Commission in most EU countries, EU citizens from other Member States use welfare benefits no more intensively than the host country's nationals. Mobile EU citizens are less likely to receive disability and unemployment benefits in most countries studied.
Almost 200 million Europeans already have the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), according to the latest figures available for 2013. This represents 37.4% of the insured population in the EU. The number of EHIC holders is steadily increasing, with 8 million more citizens carrying it in 2013 compared to the previous year (+4%).
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 fact, in the vast majority of cases, patients presenting the EHIC receive the necessary healthcare and are reimbursed without any problems. However, there have been cases of refusals, in general due to a lack of awareness on the part of healthcare providers. Therefore both the European Commission and the Member States must continue to raise awareness on how the card works, both among health practitioners and citizens.
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.
Finally, if they still encounter problems, they should contact the European Commission, which can investigate the claims and raise the issue with the authorities of the country concerned. The Commission investigates such cases and when necessary, infringement procedures will be opened against any Member State not applying EU law on the use of the EHIC.
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.
Ahead of the summer holidays, in order to increase awareness of the EHIC, the European Commission is launching a competition for video storyboard proposals. The winner's concept will be developed and produced into a video clip, which will be used to further promote the EHIC. The competition is open from today until 17th August.
The app covers 28 EU countries, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. It is available in 25 languages, with the option to switch from one language to another. However, the app does not replace the EHIC.