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European Health Insurance Card fact sheet

  • Last modified date:
    27 January 2011

The European Healthcare Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles the holder to free or reduced-cost state provided medical treatment that becomes necessary whilst on a temporary visit to any European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland.

As of March 2010, approximately 28.7 million UK residents hold a valid EHIC.  Applying for the card is free and it is valid for up to five years. However, the EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or the cost of things such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, repatriation to the UK or lost or stolen property.

See the NHS Choices website for more information, including a country by country guide:


Is the Department of Health aware that there are other internet sites charging individuals to sign up for an EHIC card?


EHICs are free through the NHS - there is no need to pay. To apply for or renew yours, go to, call 0845 606 2030 or get an application pack from some Post Offices.

We are trying to do something about websites charging individuals for an EHIC which are not endorsed by the Department of Health.


If hospitals refuse to accept an EHIC


A valid EHIC entitles the holder to free or reduced-cost state provided medical treatment that becomes necessary whilst on a temporary visit to an EEA Member State.


We are aware that on occasion, some hospitals are seeking payment from individuals rather than accepting a valid EHIC in the first instance. The UK has raised this issue with the European Commission.


The Department would advise that the EHIC should be accepted and if any problems arise to contact the UK consular offices in order to assist with clarification with the hospital.


Do you have to pay when using an EHIC?


Often when accessing healthcare using travel insurance, you will need to pay up front and claim back the cost from your insurer afterwards.  With the EHIC you should only be charged the same as a resident of that country would be charged for the same treatment.


You need to show a valid EHIC in order to receive reduced cost, or sometimes free, state funded treatment when in another member state. It is important that in all situations you make sure that you go to a state-funded healthcare provider. No reimbursement may be provided in relation to the EHIC if you try to access private healthcare whilst on a visit and are charged.


What if I lose my EHIC?


If your EHIC is lost or stolen, you can obtain a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC), which works in a similar way to the EHIC, by phoning the Overseas Healthcare Team on +44 191 218 1999. You should only request one when you are in a situation that you need to access treatment and prove your entitlement, and it is only valid for that specific period.


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