The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) Explained

Travel Tips | | 2 minutes

The European Union has published its traffic light system to restart international travel between member states. As we start to travel again and learn to live alongside COVID-19, it’s never been as important to be covered for any eventuality and know what you’re entitled to. 

We recommend always having travel insurance before you travel. In addition to your travel insurance, we recommend applying for (or renewing!) a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

What is the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)?

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is a free card that allows you to get healthcare in another EU or EEA state for free or at a reduced cost. The card isn’t a replacement for travel insurance as it only covers necessary healthcare.

How does the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) work when I’m on holidays?

Depending on the country you’re visiting, you may have to pay a standard fee or proportion of the health care services you receive. This is known as patient co-payment. 

If you don’t have a valid EHIC card or if you were charged in error, you can easily apply for a refund once you return to Ireland. Additionally, if you used any private health care during your trip, you won’t be liable for any refunds. 

For example, if you need to avail of health care in Spain:

  • Make sure the doctor you’re contacting is part of the public healthcare system.
  • If you need to go to the hospital, specify you want state-provided care, which will be mainly subsidised.
  • At the hospital, show your EHIC card upon arrival to ensure you aren’t charged as a private patient.
  • Pensioners, with proof of age, will be charged a lower price for prescriptions.
  • If you require medicine after being discharged from a hospital, this will be on the hospital medical report. Take the report to a public primary care centre (‘Centro de Salud’) where a doctor will give you your prescription.
  • Dental care is not covered by EHIC in Spain.

You can find more information on how the EHIC works in different countries here.

How do I apply for the EHIC card? 

If you haven’t already applied for the EHIC, simply download and fill out this application form and post it to your local health office.

If your EHIC is out of date and you’re still at the same address, you can easily renew your EHIC online. All you need is your PPSN and your EHIC number, both of which are on your existing card. 

Or, if you have a medical or drug payment scheme card, you can apply online.

Does the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) help if I get COVID-19 while abroad?

As mentioned above, EHIC only covers necessary healthcare. If you contract COVID-19 while abroad and need private treatment or to be repatriated, EHIC won’t cover this. 

Some countries such as Portugal, the Canaries, Turkey and Thailand, are offering their own COVID-19 cover to entice tourists back. We always recommend that you have an up-to-date travel insurance policy in place at least 2-4 weeks before you travel. 


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