Anyone who lives in the EU, in an EEA country or in Switzerland will usually have access to free universal healthcare. This has been the situation in these countries for decades.
Along with this universal healthcare comes the ability to apply for an EHIC – European health insurance card. A card that allows you to access free healthcare in all of the EU and EEA countries, and in Switzerland.
Who needs to apply for an EHIC, and is it something you will need to do? Read on to find out.
Do you need an EHIC card? — The EHIC, or European Health Insurance Card, is given to anyone with a residence in an EU or EEA country or Switzerland. The card is not needed to access healthcare in the country of residence, but it is needed if you will require medical treatment while out of your own country and in the EU, EEA or in Switzerland.
That is why most Europeans apply for one, so they can leave their own country of residence and not have to worry about needing medical treatment while away. If you plan on leaving your own country, then having an EHIC is smart.
What does the EHIC allow you to access? — Unsurprisingly for a region with free universal healthcare, the EHIC allows you to access the same medical care you would get if you were in your own country of residence.
The only things it does not cover are medical care in a private medical facility, rescue services if you were on a skiing trip and had an accident, and a flight back to your home country if you had to fly home early due to medical issues. Other than that, the EHIC covers you for pretty much everything.
Is the EHIC the only thing you need when traveling? — You only need to apply for supplemental health insurance when traveling if you think there is any possibility you would need a mountain rescue, or a flight home.
Otherwise, as long as you are happy getting medical care in a state-run facility and not in a private hospital, the EHIC will cover you for all of it. Many people do get private travel insurance but, as far as healthcare goes, it is not completely vital that you do.
How to apply for the EHIC? — You can apply for the EHIC on the Internet via one of the government websites set up to allow you to do this. Just find the one that is pertinent to your own country of residence, and complete the application.
The whole process takes just a few minutes, and does not require any payment. Your application will then be processed, and your EHIC card sent to you within a few days. Once you receive it, you can comfortably travel around the EU, the EE and Switzerland without having to worry about having an accident and not being able to access the correct medical care.