The European health card

The European health insurance card is used to identify its bearer as a user of the European health system, to whom it confers the right to receive public medical services required whilst the bearer is temporarily in any of the member countries of the European Union (Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Denmark, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Rumania and Sweden), the European Economic Space (Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland) and Switzerland.

To obtain a European health insurance card, the person must be a beneficiary of the public health service in the country of origin.

Who pays for the services managed through the European health insurance card?

The expenditure for healthcare received in the abovementioned countries is paid by the patient’s country of origin, which refunds the amount to the country that has dispensed the healthcare services. The European health insurance card allows the exchange of information and the processing of these payments to be more flexible, basically related to the healthcare services derived from medical care in A&E, the worsening of chronic pathologies, pregnancy and birth.

What cover do I have with the European health insurance card?

The portfolio of services differs from one country to another. Therefore, the services that are free in one country might not be in another. The European health insurance card does not guarantee that the healthcare service received is free of charge.

Additionally, patients holding European health insurance cards receive the same treatment and are exposed to the same delays as Spanish citizens. This could be an important problem in regions with high tourism, where the public healthcare services are saturated during holiday periods.

Can I use the healthcare card in any healthcare centre?

No. The European health insurance card only covers public medical services. IT IS NOT VALID for receiving medical care in private centres. It also is not valid if the patient travels to another country with the specific aim of receiving a medical treatment or if, when admitted to hospital, the user requests returning to their country; in this case the user will have to assume the expense of the transfer. Finally, the European health insurance card is not valid if the user moves their normal residence to another member State.

Does the European health insurance card cover students and temporary workers?

Yes. The European health insurance card IS ESSENTIAL for students and ERASMUS grant holders, although the educational centres have taken out health policies and even though it is advisable to take out a health insurance policy for the time the student is outside their country. Likewise, the European health insurance card is also necessary for occasional and temporary workers.

What will happen to the European health insurance card after Brexit?

Until the United Kingdom finally leaves the European Union, the European health insurance card will continue to be valid. This will become null and void when the UK’s departure from the European Union becomes effective, except if the authorities from both parties reach specific agreements on the subject.

Where can I apply for the European health insurance card?

The European health insurance card can be applied for over the internet or at certain Social Security offices. It is free of charge and is obtained within an approximate time of 10 days. In each country it looks different. Additionally, it might be processed differently.

For further information about the use of the European health insurance card, its appearance and its processing, click on the following link.

Is the European health insurance card an alternative to travel health insurance?

No. The European health insurance card DOES NOT REPLACE TRAVEL HEALTH INSURANCE. You must remember that the European health insurance card only contemplates the provision of public healthcare services. It is advisable to complement it with a good travel insurance that also covers contingencies such as luggage loss, theft, civil and penal liability… It should also include cover for health problems.

Accordingly, it must be taken into account that healthcare services are very expensive in most countries, particularly if they involve transfers, repatriations, surgical operations or hospital admittance. For this reason, some travellers opt for taking out specific health insurance with broader cover than that usually offered in holiday packages.