The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows the cardholder to receive medical treatments while travelling. It is operational in other countries of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. The EHIC cardholder will benefit from the same medical cover a local resident would. If you are considering travelling to another country of the European Union (EU) knowingly to receive medical treatment, you need to understand how the process works. Travelling to another country with the sole intention of receiving medical treatment or to give birth is not allowed. In these situations, the European Health card will not cover these medical costs.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule
- The EHIC covers routine medical treatments due to a pre-existing medical condition. For example, it will cover the costs for kidney dialysis and the provision of oxygen. However, you will need to arrange these treatments prior to your trip. Your european health card will cover these treatments. But you need to make sure you are going to a public hospital or clinic. You can talk to your GP or hospital for advice.
- If you have your baby prematurely, your EHIC will cover the costs for you and the baby until you return to the UK.
To know more about what is covered and what is not, please see our guide here. NB: there are parts of the EEA as Vatican City often mistaken as being part of Italy, Monaco, and San Marino, where you will not be able to use your EHIC as public healthcare may not be available.
S2 Route and EU Directive Route
Even if traveling to another country of the EEA to receive medical treatment is not allowed, you may be able to access state-funded healthcare abroad (in the EEA or Switzerland) if you meet certain conditions. There are 2 possible ways:
- The S2 route is an arrangement between the NHS and another state-funded healthcare system. In some cases, you will need to pay a portion of the costs. If you want to use the S2 route and you are a British citizen then you will need an authorization from NHS England before receiving any medical treatment.
- The EU Directive route is an arrangement between the NHS and yourself. In this case, you will have to pay the cost for medical treatments upfront. You can claim the eligible costs from the NHS when you are back in the UK. You can talk to your GP about your eligibility criteria.
To apply or renew your EHIC, you can visit our application page here.