Where can I use my EHIC?

Awareness levels of EHIC are fairly high in the UK, and most travellers know all about the scheme. But where can you actually use it? EHIC is a scheme which takes in all of the countries of the European Union, plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The UK is still a member of the EU, and will continue to be so until the Brexit negotiations are complete.

Other countries which we might think of as being in Europe, but which are not part of the European Union, are not included in the EHIC scheme. This includes smaller countries such as San Marino, Andorra and Monaco, as well as countries of the former Soviet Union such as Russia and Ukraine. Countries which have applied to join the EU but who have not yet had their applications approved are not part of the EHIC system. These countries are Montenegro, Turkey, Serbia, Kosovo and Albania.

I’m going on a cruise – should I take my EHIC?

Although EHIC should always be one of the key essentials which you take on holiday, the only occasion where you can leave it behind is on a cruise. In order to access EHIC cover abroad in one of the countries which make up the European Economic Area, you have to have an address in the country concerned. This could be a hotel, guest house or holiday apartment, but can’t be a cruise ship anchored in port.

So what are your options when going on a cruise? Really your only choice is taking out travel insurance which is specially designed for people going on cruises. This type of insurance will cover you should you fall ill onboard ship or when on an excursion in port. If you have pre-existing conditions don’t be tempted to travel uninsured, as healthcare costs can quickly mount up.

How do I get an EHIC for my child?

Every member of the family needs their own EHIC when you’re travelling abroad on holiday. Children need their own EHIC from birth, but can’t apply for an EHIC on their own until they reach their 16th birthday. In order to make sure your child is covered, a parent or other adult who is legally responsible for them will have to apply on their behalf.

Getting an EHIC for your child is straightforward. If you have an EHIC of your own already, simply use the same method again and apply for another card for your child. You’ll need to give your child’s full name and date of birth, but as your child will be too young to have their own National Insurance number you will complete your own number to link the child’s application to your own. Your child’s EHIC card will then be sent to you in the post – don’t forget to take it with you when you travel.

Does EHIC cover pre-existing conditions?

One of the main benefits of EHIC is that it does indeed cover you for conditions which you knew about before leaving the UK. Although you can buy travel insurance which will also cover you for pre-existing or chronic conditions, your premiums will usually be higher. There is no additional charge for using EHIC cover overseas to treat a pre-existing condition.

Another huge benefit of EHIC for people with ongoing conditions such as kidney disease and breathing difficulties is that they can, with a bit of effort, arrange to have dialysis or pick up oxygen cylinders from an overseas hospital.

Don’t scrimp on the travel insurance though, you’ll still want to be covered for flights home in an emergency situation, and for theft, delay and cancellation. And don’t be tempted to lie to your insurer about your health status, as in the event of a claim they can refuse to pay out.

Why am I being asked to pay a contribution towards my EHIC treatment?

We’re really lucky to have free healthcare in the UK. Many British residents travelling overseas assume that everyone else gets free healthcare too, and in many countries this isn’t the case. As EHIC is designed to give you the same rights as people who are nationals of the country concerned, if they have to pay contributions towards their care, you will too.

In most cases, the amounts you will be asked to pay are low. In France, for example, patients admitted to hospital are charged 18 euros per day, and charges are made in Norway for seeing a GP or having diagnostic tests. In most countries, you’ll also pay prescription charges. Keep receipts for all the contributions you are asked to pay; you won’t be able to claim them back from the NHS on your return, but they might be covered by travel insurance if they start to mount up.

I’ve lost my EHIC – What do I do?

If you’re in the UK and realise that you’ve lost or misplaced your EHIC, then get in touch with the NHS overseas healthcare team online, by email or by post. They can help with cancelling your lost card, and then arrange for a replacement card to be sent out.

If you’re overseas and your wallet gets stolen with your card in it, or you lose your belongings, you can wait until you get home to put the wheels in motion for a replacement. However, it may be that you need to access healthcare in the meantime. If you have an EHIC issued in your name but you can’t lay your hands on it when you need treatment, then call the NHS Overseas Health team, or get someone else to do it for you. A Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) can be arranged to cover you until you get home.

What can I do about my expired EHIC?

EHIC cover is issued for a period of five years. An expiry date will be printed on your card, but often you won’t get a notification when your card is coming to the end of its validity. If you’re about to travel and have realised that your EHIC has run out, there are a couple of things you can do.

Firstly, get online and start the process to apply for a replacement card. This won’t be instantaneous as new cards take a couple of weeks to be sent out. If you need to travel in the meantime, don’t worry. Should you need to take advantage of your EHIC cover while you’re away, call the NHS Overseas Healthcare team, give them your details and details of where you’re being treated, and they can arrange a temporary Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC) which will cover you until you get home and your new card arrives in the mail.

Where do I find my NHS and National Insurance number?

In addition to your name, address and date of birth, you’ll need either your National Insurance number or NHS number to apply for your EHIC cover. This is needed to prove your status as “ordinarily resident” in the UK and therefore eligible for EHIC cover from the British NHS.

NHS number – this is the number which is used by your doctor or hospital to identify you. You’ll find it on correspondence from your GP or hospital. In Scotland, it’s known as the CHI number. If you can’t find it, the staff at your GP surgery should be able to help.

National Insurance number – you’ll find this on your pay slip, or on letters from HMRC. If you’re not working, your National Insurance number will be on letters from the Benefits office. If you have neither an NHS or an NI number, check your eligibility for EHIC on the NHS helpline.

Is it still worth getting an EHIC if we’re going to Brexit?

Even if you don’t know much about the EHIC scheme and how it works, you’ll know that it’s a healthcare system which has something to do with the EU. Knowing that the UK is going to be leaving the European Union, it’s reasonable to think that there’s no point in either getting a new EHIC or replacing an expired one.

However, we’re still in the EU, and will still be until the Spring of 2019 at least. After that there may be a transition period, and after that the UK government may agree to continue the reciprocal agreement of EHIC with the other countries which are currently part of the system. So it’s business as usual until we’re told otherwise. Continue to apply for new EHIC cards, renew the cards which are expiring, and use state healthcare across the countries of the European Economic Area.

How do I get another EHIC if mine has expired?

EHIC cover is issued for a period of five years only, and once your card has passed its expiry date, you won’t be able to use it any more. Luckily, it’s easy to request a renewal. Simply log into the website using the ID and password you were given when you first registered, and look for the option to apply for a renewal. At the same time, you should have the option to update any details which have changed since the last time you applied.

If you’re overseas, fall ill and discover that your EHIC has expired then all is not lost. If your circumstances have not changed and you are still entitled to cover, call the NHS overseas healthcare helpline and ask for them to issue a Provisional Replacement Service (PRC) which will be sent out immediately to the hospital overseas and will cover costs until you return.

How do I apply for an EHIC family card?

The simple answer to this is that you can’t. Unlike its predecessor of E111 and most travel insurance policies, EHIC is designed for individuals only. That means you’ll have to organise different EHIC cover for each member of the family, including babies and toddlers – children can’t claim for treatment on a parent’s card.

Although you can’t apply for a family card or a single piece of paper to cover everyone, one parent can do the application for everyone. Whoever is making the application has to fill in names, dates of birth and addresses for all members of the family. One of the key pieces of information needed is a National Insurance number. As these aren’t issued to children under the age of 16, parents will have to complete their own details instead. All applications can be submitted together and once approved, the cards will be sent to your home address in the post.

What isn’t covered by my EHIC?

EHIC is seen by some as a substitute for travel insurance, but it really isn’t. EHIC is purely about state healthcare – it’s a reciprocal agreement between 32 different countries which allows citizens to get medical care in any of the countries at minimal cost. That doesn’t mean you’ll get free treatment, as if fees apply for locals, you’ll have to pay them too. EHIC won’t ever pick up the tab if you’re treated in a private hospital, or in a private room in a state hospital, although your travel insurance might.

EHIC is designed for unforeseen medical expenses, or to cover people with pre-existing conditions who need regular treatment. EHIC won’t cover you if your only reason for going overseas is to seek treatment with a specific hospital or doctor. It also doesn’t cover pregnant women who want to be in a certain country to give birth.

Do I need a separate EHIC for each country?

No, EHIC is designed to be accepted in every of the 32 countries which are part of the scheme. All of the EHIC cards issued by the separate governments are similar in appearance, and one card works everywhere. However, not every European country is a member of the EEA group, so it’s always wise to double check that the countries you are intending travelling through are included under EHIC.

EHIC can also be used when you’re on a road trip or interrail holiday through several European countries. It’s not a substitute for travel insurance, and you should make sure you’re properly covered for all the other eventualities which might befall you on this sort of holiday. The only exception to this are cruise holidays, which are one of the few exceptions to EHIC and require travel insurance to cover health and other risks.

What do I do if my EHIC has been stolen?

Pickpocketing and bag snatching is one of the most common crimes which affect tourists overseas, and as well as being distressing, it’s extremely inconvenient. If one of the pieces of documentation you’ve lost is your EHIC, you have a couple of options.

Firstly, if you’re due to return home shortly, it might be better to wait until you’re back in the UK. Then you can log into the website you used to order your card in the first place to report it stolen and ask for a new one, or call the NHS helpline for guidance. If you need to get medical attention before you get home, then you can call the helpline and ask for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC). These are sent direct to the hospital or doctor where you’re being treated, and will cover you until you return to the UK.

Will I still get free prescriptions using EHIC?

If you qualify for free prescriptions in the UK, there is no guarantee that you will have the same entitlement overseas. Every one of the 32 countries which are part of the EHIC system have their own rules and you will be charged according to local rules. Some countries give free prescriptions for children, others have a system of charging depending on the type of illness the prescription is for.

There are a few things you can do to minimise prescription costs while overseas. Firstly, make sure you take enough prescription medication with you when you travel. Secondly, if you do fall ill while you’re away speak to a pharmacist rather than heading for the GP as you may be able to get what you need over the counter. If you do have to see a doctor for a prescription, ask the pharmacist about costs and always ask for a receipt.

I’ve been asked to pay using my EHIC, can I get my money back?

It can come as quite a shock to be asked to pay when you see a GP or have to go to hospital overseas, especially if you were under the impression that your EHIC card gave you free healthcare. Unfortunately, if you’ve been asked to make contributions or co-payments towards your treatment in a state hospital you won’t be able to claim for a refund.

Contributions towards treatment are generally low, just a few euros. Many systems also put a cap on the total amount you’ll be asked to pay towards your treatment. If you are presented with a very hefty bill, the chances are that you’re being treated privately. Your travel insurance may reimburse costs associated with private medical care, but it’s not covered under EHIC. If you are unclear what you are being charged and why, don’t be afraid to ask the staff for an invoice or an explanation.

Where can I get an EHIC application form?

There are a few options for getting an EHIC form. The easiest and quickest method is by using the internet. Log on to the NHS website where you will find everything you need to apply for EHIC for you, and for your family members if appropriate. If you prefer, choose one of the third party websites which offer a service which goes beyond the basic EHIC application with features such as check and send, email assistance or reminders when your EHIC is about to expire. You can also print a form off the government website to complete by hand and send off in the mail. If you have no access to the internet, then you can call the NHS Overseas Healthcare helpline during office hours, and ask for one to be sent to you in the post. EHIC forms can’t be picked up from the Post Office or GP surgery in the way that E111 forms could.

How do I renew my EHIC?

EHIC has a validity of 5 years, and if you forget to renew it when it expires, you’ll no longer be covered. Every EHIC has the expiry date printed on it, but you will receive no other warning that your EHIC is about to expire in many cases. If you’ve applied for your EHIC with a site other than the NHS one, the website might email you a reminder that it’s time to renew.

When you apply online, you’re given a login ID and password to allow you to log back in and update any details whish have changed. You should also be able to ask for new cards to be sent out. If you can’t remember your login details or applied in some other way, give the NHS helpline a call, explain the situation and they can take you through the process of applying for a renewal over the phone.

What is E111?

E111 is a system for healthcare across Europe which was replaced by E111 in 2004. If you’ve still got an old E111 form kicking around in the house, it’s most definitely time to consign it to the rubbish bin.

You’ll often hear people talking about E111 when it comes to travelling overseas to the European Union countries and accessing healthcare there. There’s a lot of confusion about E111 and EHIC – are the two the same thing?

E111 is EHIC’s predecessor. E111 was a paper form you got from the Post Office, listing all of the members of the family, and was used if you needed to see doctors or go to hospital overseas. E111 was discontinued in 2004, and replaced with EHIC. Rather than being a paper form, EHIC is a credit card sized piece of plastic and each member of the family has their own card, which makes separate travel much more straightforward.

If you’re still carrying the old E111 form around with you, then it’s time to organise a replacement. E111 will no longer be accepted, and your only alternative is applying for an EHIC instead.

E111 has several advantages over the old E111. E111 was a piece of paper which covered all members of the family on one form. Fine when everyone was travelling together, not so useful when a parent was away on business at the same time as another member of the family wanted to take the E111 on holiday. E111 offers each person a separate card, which is far more sensible.

E111 also has a broader coverage than the old E111, as in the time since the E111 was introduced the European Economic Area has grown considerably since countries like Latvia and Bulgaria became part of the system. E111 will continue to expand as new countries join the EU.

How is EHIC different from E111?

If you’ve still got an old E111 form which you pack each year when you head off on holiday, it will probably come as a bit of shock to find that it’s not valid any more. E111 was replaced in 2004 by EHIC, which has many advantages over the old system.

For a start, EHIC is individual cover. Everyone gets their own card rather than the whole family being covered on one form. That makes life a lot easier if a child’s school trip coincides with another family member needing to go overseas too. EHIC is similar in a lot of ways too in that it still gives you access to state healthcare overseas on the same terms as the locals. That doesn’t mean you will be treated free, as every country’s healthcare system is different. Apply for your EHIC online, get cards for the whole family, and stick that old E111 in the recycling bin.

How do I renew my E111?

The first thing to note is that E111s don’t automatically renew, so you have to take steps to make sure you’ve started the renewal process before it runs out, especially if you’re thinking about travelling soon. E111 is valid for five years from the date of issue and the expiry date will be printed on the card.

If your E111 is within 6 months of expiry then you can renew it right away, you don’t have to wait until it’s expired. Any remaining entitlement will be added onto the five year validity of the new card. If you’ve applied for your E111 online, you can then log back into the website where you originally applied for your card and ask for it to be renewed. If you can’t remember where you applied, or have forgotten the details, you can also phone the NHS Overseas Healthcare team’s helpline and ask for a new card to be sent out for you.

How do I change my name on my E111?

There are lots of reasons why you might need to change your name on official documents, the most common ones being getting married or divorced. If your name on your E111 doesn’t match your name on your passport or other documents then it could cause issues if you need to access treatment overseas.

Luckily, changing your name on your E111 is a straightforward process. If you applied for your E111 online, log back into the same website and see whether there is an option to update your details. Follow the link, give your new name or address, and then request another card be sent out. If you didn’t apply online, then contact the NHS helpline and ask how to proceed. Once your new E111 arrives in the post you can destroy the old one. Make sure you take your E111 with you when you travel overseas as you won’t be treated without it.

How do I get a family E111 card?

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a family E111 card. The way the system has been structured requires everyone to have their own card. Parents won’t be able to get treatment for their children using their card and hospitals overseas are within their rights to refuse to treat people on the state system if they don’t have the right documents.

E111 can be very useful when you’re travelling with kids, as it covers everything from childhood illnesses through to more serious accidents. In order to access care for all members of the family, one of the adults can apply for their own card, along with cards for any children they are responsible for. As children don’t have National Insurance numbers, parents will complete their own details on that part of the form. When seeking medical care overseas for your children, take their E111 and passport to the local state healthcare provider.

Is there any medical treatment not covered by my E111?

One of the great things about E111 is that it covers a lot of things that your typical travel insurance policy doesn’t, but that doesn’t mean that there are no exclusions at all.

Maternity – E111 will cover you if you unexpectedly go into labour while you’re on business or holiday and will allow you to give birth and be looked after in a state hospital. E111 doesn’t cover the costs of giving birth when the only reason you have travelled is to give birth in a certain city or country.

Private and Cosmetic Treatments – E111 only ever covers state healthcare provision. E111 won’t meet the costs of being treated in a private hospital, or in a private room in a state hospital. That’s something to bear in mind if you’re offered fast track treatment of the opportunity to jump the queue for a routine operation.

Will E111 refund any charges I have to pay?

No, British travellers who are treated overseas under the E111 scheme are not able to claim back any of the charges which they might incur. E111 is designed to give us the same rights as the local people in whichever country we are being treated to access state healthcare. In many countries across Europe, locals are asked to pay to see their GP, pay an overnight “board and lodging” sum to cover meals when admitted to hospital, or even asked to get family members to supply bed linen and towels. If any of these rules apply to them, they’ll apply to you too. It’s important to be clear about why you’re being asked to pay though, so don’t be afraid to ask someone to explain the system, and give you an invoice breaking down any charges. Always get a receipt for any payments you make.

Will E111 cover my pre-existing condition?

Yes, E111 differs from many travel insurance policies in that you will be covered for medical conditions which you knew about before leaving home. Pre-existing medical conditions could be anything from a known allergy to a certain substance to something much more serious and life threatening like cancer. Take advice from your GP or specialist before committing to any travel, and do some homework on which hospitals and facilities there are close by to assist you in an emergency.

There are a few exclusions to the pre-existing medical cover. E111 won’t cover trips when the only reason for travelling is to seek treatment for your illness. This is to stop people picking and choosing where in Europe they are treated depending on which hospitals are seen as centres of excellence. Also remember that standards of care in many countries are not up to NHS standards, especially in Eastern Europe.

How do I get an E111 card for my child?

Everyone needs their own separate E111 card, even the smallest children. If you don’t have E111 cover for the family already, often the first time this issue arises is when a teenager is heading off overseas on a school trip, or camping with Scouts or Guides.

Young people under the age of 16 can’t apply for E111 cards by themselves, so a parent or other adult who has legal responsibility will have to do it for them. Parents will need to give their own details such as National Insurance number, then complete the separate fields to apply for E111 for their children. When the cards arrive in the post, you need to make sure the child packs their card to take with them on their trip as they will need to present it along with their passport if they need to access state treatment overseas.

Are prescription charges covered by E111?

There’s no straightforward answer to this one. Every state healthcare system across Europe is different. Many do have groups of people who are exempt from paying prescription charges, most commonly children. Others instead of exempting groups of people exempt illnesses instead, not charging for medication which is for a lifelong condition, but charging fees for other types of medication. Other systems have charges for every prescription, irrespective of what it’s for.

If you’re not sure about what you’re being charged, ask the pharmacist. Most pharmacies, especially in the main tourist areas, will have staff who can speak some English. They will be able to advise of costs before dispensing your items, and may be able to give advice about cheaper alternatives. If you are asked to pay towards a prescription always ask for a copy of the paperwork and get receipt for any payments you make.

How do I use my E111?

Getting your E111 through the post is just the beginning of the process. If you need to seek medical attention overseas, the first thing to establish is that you’re going to a state hospital or doctor as E111 can’t be used in the private sector. If you’re asking other people to make arrangements for you to get to hospital or see a doctor, make sure they’re aware that you have E111 and want to be treated under that system.

You’ll need to have your card with you to get care overseas, and show it to medical staff at the front desk along with your passport. They may well want to take copies of your documents. If you’re transferred elsewhere for tests or further treatment, show them your E111 too. If you run into any difficulties having your E111 accepted, call the NHS helpline who can advise on the specifics of your situation.