European Insurance Card

Approx read: 2 mins

ehicWhat’s a European Health Insurance Card? How much does it cost?

The EHIC is a free card that gives you access to medically necessary, state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in any of the 28 EU countries, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, under the same conditions and at the same cost (free in some countries) as people insured in that country.

What does it cover?

Depends on where you’re headed. But basically, the basics. No elective surgery, no private care. And it doesn’t replace travel insurance. The EHIC will not replace your stolen luggage or cover transportation costs. It won’t spring for a mountain rescue. And if you decide to board one of those floating disease vectors people call a ‘cruise ship,’ plan for separate coverage.

The great thing is that, unlike most generic private travel medical policies, the EHIC card guarantees a minimal standard of coverage in all of its partnering countries, regardless of threat level. Does this matter? Going to Brussels any time soon?

Who’s eligible?

Anyone insured by a state social security system in any Member State of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.

Expats from non-EU countries who are covered by a state social security scheme are also eligible for a card. However, nationals from non-EU countries cannot use their EHIC for medical treatment in Denmark, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

How do I get one?

Fill out a form issued by the health insurance institution where you’re insured. It’s a good idea to apply at least a couple of weeks before your travel dates, depending on your home-country’s red tape levels.

Remember, the card is free. Beware dodgy websites that charge a fee to file for your card. Not only are you providing nefarious folk with your personal details, you’re paying them to do it!

Tell me more!

Check with the European Commission’s Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion’s European Health Insurance Card site for mobile downloads and QR codes for more detailed information.

Check out the Unforeseen Medical Treatment section, by country, to brush up on your destination destination’s billing and pricing policies. Pages contain emergency numbers, contact information, and what’s covered, and more importantly, what isn’t. Some pages even include language lessons: ‘Accident and emergency departments in Germany are called Notaufnahme.’

The NHS has a chirpy Facebook page that answers specific EHIC questions on the double.

Is this all I need to hit the road?

In the absolute and resolute world of insurancespeak: maybe. But as threat levels go up all over Europe, people may feel more comfortable supplementing basic travel medical insurance with plans that include emergency medical evacuation, kidnap and ransom and war and terrorism cover. After all, the basics are free.

For more information on conflict zone and hostile environment coverage, check out

Sarah is a blogger, writer and amateur palaeontologist from New Orleans. When not writing or digging dinosaurs, she teaches English.