Healthcare in Europe

Information you will need to apply online

The E111 form has been replaced by the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) system, which allows those living in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland to receive free or low-cost medical cover while on holiday is undergoing major reform.

From the start of 2006, the E111 is to be replaced by a European health insurance card. There are also a number of immediate changes; for example EU citizens are now required to have a separate form for each member of the family – in the past one form covered everyone.

The EEA includes the 25 EU states plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

The big question for most of us holidaying in Europe is whether we need travel insurance at all – does the EHIC provide sufficient cover?

Contrary to many people’s belief, the EHIC does not guarantee the holidaymaker free medical and dental treatment. Only state-provided treatment is covered, and you will receive treatment on the same terms as “insured” residents of the country you are visiting. Private treatment is not covered, and state-provided treatment may not cover all of the things that are offered free of charge by the NHS.

Each of the EEA countries and Switzerland have their own rules for state medical provision. In some, treatment is free or you have to pay part of the cost. In others, you have to pay the full cost and then claim a full or partial refund.

Generally the EHIC Card only covers you for any treatment that becomes necessary during your visit. This includes all maternity care, renal dialysis and oxygen therapy.

It will cover treatment of chronic and pre-existing illnesses that require ongoing care, but not if the purpose of the visit is to obtain medical treatment abroad. You may have to pay for things like blood tests, if that is required of local residents. In most cases, the cost of prescriptions will not be refunded.

A look at the country-by-country guide to treatment across Europe on the Department of Health’s website reveals that holidaymakers are treated very differently according to their destination.

For example, in Austria (along with a number of other countries), British residents don’t even have to produce the EHIC Card to get treatment: the production of a passport is sufficient. In other countries (Holland), it is required along with a photocopy – but treatment is mostly free.

Some countries give a complete refund, while others such as France and Belgium only refund around 70% of the fee. In Finland the charges you may have to pay vary according to which region you are hospitalised in.

Having looked closely at the advice across Europe, most people relying on the EHIC Card for holiday cover should probably take a look at the country they are choosing to visit before they go.

If you require a hospital stay, most countries levy a small admin charge to cover food.

Most people travelling to Ireland, and not carrying anything particularly valuable, can rely on the EHIC Card.

Visitors to Italy report receiving free medical cover – a lot of the decision of whether to take out insurance will depend on whether you require the other cover insurance provides.

It’s worth noting that the EHIC Card only covers the actual care. If you wanted to be repatriated by ambulance after a heart attack, you could be looking at a £20,000 bill – one that is usually picked up by an insurer. By having your EHIC Card and purchasing your travel cover with EHICPlus Travel Insurance you can relax and enjoy your holiday.

The last thing to remember is that the EHIC Card is only valid while you remain a resident of the UK. If you move abroad, the EHIC Card will no longer guarantee free treatment. The exceptions to this rule are nannies, au pairs and those in the armed services.

To find out more about the card please visit the official Government EHIC website which explains all the benefits in detail, or get a leaflet from the Post Office.