European healthcare is known worldwide for its high quality and accessibility for all EU citizens. Each EU member nation has its own national health care service which offers access to affordable (or free) medical treatment. Furthermore, all EU citizens are issued a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This is a medical card that ensures access to state-provided healthcare in any EU member country, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The EHIC enables citizens to have consistent health insurance in Europe when they travel throughout the EU.
Health Insurance in Europe - General information
The EHIC is used universally throughout all EU member countries as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. It guarantees access to state-provided healthcare during temporary stays abroad. It only covers treatments that are medically necessary until you return home.
Treatment should be provided under the same conditions and at the same cost (free in some cases) as people insured in that country. It also covers the treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and standard maternity care, as long as the sole purpose of your visit is not to give birth or seek medical care.
For more information about what is covered in each country, see the EHIC guide. To be eligible for a health insurance card in Europe, you must be insured by or covered by a state social security system in any Member State of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. Each member of a family is required to have their own card, and they must be renewed every year.
The EHIC was created for short travels abroad, providing peace of mind for EU residents traveling outside of their home country. If you live in France and are visiting Italy, you know you can get medical treatment in an Italian hospital, just like an Italian citizen.
Using the EHIC
You can use the EHIC to access state-provided medical care - make sure to consult a doctor that is part of the country’s regional health insurance.
Every country's health service is different, but you will be covered for any treatment that is necessary during your visit. This includes illness, accident, pre-existing medical conditions, routine maternity checks, and unexpected births.
Cost of treatment
The cost of treatment varies -- it is either reduced, or in many cases free of charge. You can only use the EHIC for state-run medical treatment. If you end up in a private health center or hospital, then you’ll probably have to pay the bill yourself, unless you're covered by separate travel insurance.
If you lose your European health insurance card while abroad, you can arrange for EHIC replacement documents if you need treatment. You’ll need to apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate, which acts a replacement and provides the same coverage as your EHIC card. It can be sent to you overseas by fax or email.
Can non-EU citizens have the European health insurance card?
If you are from outside one of the EU member states, you could still be entitled to a Health Card if you are resident within the European Economic Area. When you apply, you’ll have to provide proof of residency. The benefits of the card are the same for each holder, regardless of which country in the world they come from.
To obtain a European health insurance card, you need to contact the local health authority in the country you are residing.
Health Insurance in Europe
Beneficial programs like the EHIC are one of the many features of high-quality European healthcare. This is one of the most important benefits of obtaining EU residency and citizenship.
If you would like to learn more about the EHIC or get more information about countries with citizenship by investment programs that offer an EU passport, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons, Lumu