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Free EHIC Card

Around 5.2m expire this year, check now

The EHIC, or European Health Insurance Card, is free and gets free or discounted medical care in all 28 EU countries, plus others. But over half of people in the UK don't have one, and around 5.2m are due to expire in 2015, so check yours urgently.

This guide tells you which countries it's valid in, which may illegally reject it, and the level of cover it gives. And crucially to get or renew one DON’T GOOGLE or you’ll end up at imposter sites that charge or pretend they fast track when EHICs are free (see how to get it free).

What is the EHIC?

Free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) The free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles the holder to free or discounted medical treatment at state-run hospitals and GPs in any European Union country, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Who needs an EHIC?

Check your EHIC expiration dateEverybody who is travelling in Europe needs an EHIC. It replaced the old E111 form in 2005. Even if you've already got travel insurance, it's valuable extra protection, even if just for visiting the local GP with a query while away.

Is it a substitute for travel insurance?

No. While very useful, it’s only about medical cover. It only gives you access to state-run hospitals which, depending on where you travel to, can be few or far between, and more limited.

Country-by-country EHIC guide

The EHIC's usable in the EU’s 28 member states, plus a few others. Show your card before treatment, and keep any receipts. The NHS England site also has detailed country-by-country information on what’s covered in each.

How do I get a free EHIC?

There are several ways to register for a card. Generally, it'll take about seven to 10 days for it to come through (longer for posted applications), though it's worth applying early so you get your EHIC in good time for your holiday.

Beware shyster EHIC websites

Watch out for websites demanding a fee for the EHIC. Search on the internet for "EHIC" and you’ll find sites that describe themselves as "reviewing" or "forwarding" services, charging £20 or more to process your application. They often look official, but scroll to the bottom and you’ll find a tick box asking for cash.

Beware unlawful EHIC refusals

Worryingly, we've heard reports of holidaymakers having their EHICs refused for public healthcare in some countries. This has only affected a very small minority of travellers, and you should always take an EHIC nevertheless. But it's worth ensuring you've decent travel insurance too, just in case.