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.


What is E111?

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.


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.