EHIC Information for Expatriates & European Expats

If you are from a member country of the European Union, you are aware of what a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is? For expatriates in Europe those who are still transitioning, holding an EHIC allows citizens of the member countries of the European Economic Area (EEA) as well as Switzerland to access healthcare services from anywhere within the European Union for free or at a reduced cost. We gathered some useful information on EHIC for an European expatriates.

The EHIC health card was first rolled out on June 1, 2004. Since January 1, 2006, it has been the sole healthcare claim document for EU residents. With an EHIC with them, citizens of member nations traveling temporarily to other EU countries don’t have to wait for reimbursement of their treatment costs. There is no fee to obtain an EHIC; it complements private insurance without being a substitute for it.

Who can apply for an EHIC?

EU residents, as well as UK citizens, are eligible to apply for the health card. Non-EU citizens who have obtained legal residency within the EU and have a social security cover are also eligible to apply for this card. However, despite holding the EHIC, non-EU residents cannot use it for treatment in countries like Denmark, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland, and Switzerland. Croatian citizens are also barred from availing EHIC benefits in Switzerland.

Every health card is valid for a period of up to 5 years. It’s recommended to seek renewal of the card 6 months before its expiry date, although leftover time is not added to the new EHIC. For more details, consult the health coverage authority in your European country or check out the EHIC European Commission site.

EHIC for Expats

EHIC Benefits

  • Holders of EHIC can access healthcare for free or at a reduced cost in public hospitals and facilities within any EU country.
  • They are covered for healthcare until the planned date of return.
  • Those who have pre-existing medical conditions also benefit from holding this health card.
  • Those who seek routine maternity care (excluding childbirth) can obtain EHIC benefits too.
  • The card can be procured by eligible citizens of the EU for free.

EHIC Limitations

There are some limitations of holding an EHIC as well, while accessing European healthcare system. These include:

  • Holders cannot claim coverage of treatment that is non-urgent.
  • An EHIC holder visiting another EU country is entitled to EHIC benefits as available in that country and not as per EHIC benefits prevailing in his country.
  • Medical Repatriation is not covered for an EHIC holder.
  • Countries that do not fall under EEA (as well as Switzerland) do not offer EHIC benefits.
  • This health card is not valid on cruises and does not cover private medical healthcare costs like mountain rescue.
  • The card does not cover any expenses if medical treatment is the prime reason to travel abroad.

You can avail the EHIC benefits by simply showing it to a doctor who is conducting your treatment. It is worth noting here that EHIC cover is applicable only in state-run medical facilities. Private hospitals do not entertain EHIC holders. Moreover, EHIC is not a replacement for travel insurance.

As a traveler, you should opt for both an EHIC and a comprehensive travel insurance plan. While EHIC covers random healthcare assistance at public hospitals, it’s the travel insurance that covers optimum treatment at private hospitals. Travel insurance also covers expenses incurred for traveling abroad for treatment as well as medical costs related to childbirth, which the EHIC does not cover. However, travel insurance is never free and can cost differently depending upon which country you are traveling to.

The Brexit Effect for EHIC and Expats

The future of EHIC post Brexit is still unclear. Brexit has indeed impacted almost everything between the UK and the European Union. This includes EHIC benefits, which may in the future cease to exist for UK citizens, as well as those visiting UK and who wish to access healthcare benefits there. But that depends on what step the UK takes and what sort of a deal the country agrees to with the EU. One should assume that UK residents traveling outside of the UK will need to buy travel medical insurance for short trips or global health insurance if becoming an expat or residing in a European country for a year or more. To know about healthcare system in Denmark check out our healthcare region page too.

Global Health Insurance Considerations for EHIC

Expats in the EU: If you are an expat living in the European Union, it is still important to obtain a global health plan to cover your medical expenses in the European Union.

European Expats in the EU: If you are a European citizen living in another European country, then you may choose to rely solely on your EHIC card and coverage. Travel medical insurance is recommended for short trips in the EU. It is recommended that you purchase an international health insurance plan via Expat Financial

European Expats Living Outside the EU: If you are a European expatriate residing outside the expatriate, don’t rely on your EHIC card or program to cover your medical expenses outside the EU. It is important that you obtain a high quality global medical plan via one of our medical insurance providers.