If you live in an EU country and have universal health care in your own country, you have probably heard of the E111 card. You may not know what it is, however, or if you actually need to apply for one.
So, what is an E111 card and when will you need one?
What is an E111 card? — An E111 card does not actually exist anymore, even though you may still hear older Europeans talking about it.
The E111 used to be a free card that allowed any EU resident or citizen to get free government-provided healthcare in any European Union country, plus Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein. The E111 card was replaced in 2006, however, and is now known as the European Health Insurance Card or EHIC.
Who is eligible to apply for an EHIC? — Any person who is a citizen or resident of any European Union (EU) country is allowed to have an EHIC. This also applies to citizens and residents of European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland. If you live in any of these countries and do not yet have your EHIC, you can easily apply for it online via a short application form.
When do you need an EHIC? — You must have an EHIC when you travel to another EU or EEA country or Switzerland, if you expect to have free healthcare while you are there. If you do not have the EHIC and have an accident or are suddenly taken ill, you will have to pay for all your medical expenses upfront.
Do you have to pay for an EHIC? — No, you do not. You can apply for the EHIC online via the website of the country you are currently resident in. There is no charge for the application, and the card will be sent to you free of charge.
How long is the EHIC valid? — Once you are approved for the card, it is valid for five years from the date of approval. When it gets close to the expiration date, if you are still resident in the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you simply apply for it to be renewed.
What are the benefits of having an EHIC? — The main benefit is that whenever you travel to anywhere within the EU, EEA or Switzerland you are covered for all medical care should you have an accident or fall ill. Even pre-existing conditions are covered.
If you are skiing, however, you should also have private travel insurance in addition to the card, as the EHIC will not cover you for mountain rescue. It will also not cover you if you are taken ill and have to be flown back to your country of residence, or if you decide you need private medical care.
These are all reasons why it is recommended you always have additional travel insurance along with the EHIC whenever you leave your country of residence.