The European Health Insurance card, introduced in June 2004, simplifies the process of obtaining health care for citizens of the 27 European Union states, along with Liechtenstein, Iceland, Switzerland and Norway, while they are temporarily visiting abroad. It also guarantees fast and easy reimbursement of cost incurred locally or soon after returning home. As of January 1, 2006, the European Health Insurance card (EHIC) has been issued and accepted by all countries concerned and takes the place of formerly used paper documents, such as the well recognized E111. The EHIC is good for up to five years.
The EHIC entitles its holders to any public sector medical care that becomes necessary while they are visiting abroad, for free or reduced cost. It does not allow for travel to another country for the specific purpose of seeking medical care. However, health management of chronic or pre-existing conditions, such as pregnancy or kidney disease, are covered. The card allows traveling individuals to obtain the same health care as do the citizens of the country that they are visiting. However, the EHIC does not replace travel insurance. It does not cover private healthcare or the price of things like mountain rescue from ski resorts. Therefor it is vital that travel insurance be carried along with the EHIC.
Every country has a slightly different healthcare system. Therefor, it is important to remember that while in another country, your EHIC may not cover every aspect of healthcare that is free in your homeland. For instance, England provides free ambulance service, however in other European countries, a number of the state run hospitals have privately owned ambulance services which are not free. Usually, a choice is offered between state and private care. EHIC holders should always look for healthcare that is provided by the state and show their EHIC before receiving treatment in order to avoid costly medical bills from the private sector. It is required by some European healthcare organizations to pay upfront and then claim a refund using the EHIC. In those cases, it is a good idea to apply for the refund before returning home.
The EHIC has several benefits. While traveling, it covers all medical treatment that becomes necessary due to accident or illness. It provides free or reduced cost medical care from state providers. The EHIC allows visitors to be treated the same as a citizen of the country they are visiting. This includes necessary care for chronic or pre-existing conditions. The EHIC covers routine maternity care for holders visiting abroad as long as that is not the purpose of the visit. It also provides travelers, who have certain pre-existing conditions, with routine care such as renal dialysis and oxygen provisions.
It is important to note that there are some disadvantages to the card. As stated before, the EHIC does not replace private travel insurance. It is a good idea to have both. It does not cover private medical care or any services that are not state provided. The EHIC does not pay costs incurred for getting individuals back to their native countries. It does not allow individuals to go abroad solely for the purpose of receiving certain healthcare. In some regions no state provided medical care is available and the card can not be used in those areas.
The European Health Insurance card can be obtained by any citizen of the European Union or any worker or traveler who will be living in any EU state for a minimum of one year. One can apply for the EHIC in several ways. The fastest method is online through the official website of the Department of Health. Individuals can apply for themselves or on behalf of their spouse or dependent children under 16 or under 19 if enrolled in school full time. The teaching faculty of boarding schools may also apply for any children under their care. For every individual applying or applied for, it will be necessary to provide their full name, date of birth and their National Insurance or NHS number (Health and Care number for Northern Ireland residents, CHI for Scotland residents) The majority of individuals can apply online or by phone, however there are a few situations that require an individual to apply through mail. These situations include, individuals who are not native to the UK, EEA or Switzerland, people who are going to school abroad, those who work abroad but remain employed by the UK or self employed.
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