A cornerstone of social security in the European Union (EU), the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is a service run by members of the European Economic Area (EEA) to provide medical cover throughout the continent for free (or, in some states, at a reduced cost). The original purpose of the scheme was to allow those visiting other countries to be able to receive minor treatments, and in this regard, the scheme is generally a success.
While usually issued as a plastic card, the format of the EHIC varies depending on the country providing it – and it is vital for anyone looking to use any of the services covered under the agreement have this document with them in order to obtain treatment.
A free service, EHIC was brought in to replace a number of different forms including E110, E111, E119 and E128 – with the aim of providing a clearer, simpler method for those travelling across the EU to ensure that they are entitled to healthcare cover.
One common misconception is that possession of an EHIC card renders travel insurance obsolete – however, whereas travel insurance will make special provisions for getting someone ill or injured home and provide extensive cover for a number of different ailments, EHIC only offers support for matters that are covered free of charge in the country visited.