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What is a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)?

Lake GardaAre you heading to Europe? Well, getting a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before you set off is a good start.

If you're popping off to the continent, having an EHIC could prove invaluable. Travellers with the card are entitled to reduced-cost (and occasionally free) medical treatment in numerous European countries.

Please note that it's no longer possible to obtain an E111. This was phased out between 2004-5, and replaced by the EHIC.

The EHIC only offers first-line protection

In participating countries, the card carrier is granted access to state-provided treatment.

However, it’s best not to assume that all countries will have the same breadth of medical treatment provided by the NHS. To this end, various types of care may still require payment in return.

As such, the EHIC shouldn’t really be used as a replacement for private travel insurance – but should instead be viewed as first-line protection.

To save you from the possibility of having to shell out for treatment in the event of illness or injury, it’s always prudent to take out some degree of medical cover. This should apply regardless of which country is being visited.

You can apply for your free EHIC here. This link will open the Department of Health’s website in a new window.

Alternatively, if you head down to your friendly neighbourhood Post Office then you can pick up the ‘T7’ leaflet, which has plenty of information about the various health care agreements between countries. It's also accompanied by an application form for the European Health Insurance Card.

So that the card reaches you in time, it’s best to submit the form about six weeks before you plan to head off on your travels.

Beware of dodgy sites trying to charge

The EHIC is free, so don't trust any sites demanding payment for it. To be sure, go to the Department of Health's website via the link above.

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