The Holiday E111 Form Explained
The European Health Insurance Card – which replaced the E111 form in 2006 – can cut the cost of holiday healthcare by entitling you to reduced-cost or even free treatment in Europe.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles British holidaymakers to free or reduced-cost medical care in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries, including all of the EU, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.
Any travellers already in possession of an E111 form will need to apply for an EHIC, which will entitle you to the same state-funded treatment as a resident of the country you're visiting.
However, you should bear in mind that health systems across Europe vary and you might have to pay for some treatment that would normally be free on the NHS.
While the EHIC does entitle you to free or cheaper state-funded medical care, it isn’t an alternative to travel insurance, and won’t cover any private medical care or your money or belongings.
Finding adequate state-funded treatment can be difficult in some countries. In parts of Spain, for example, you often have to travel a long way to find a surgery within the state health service, and some practices offer both private and state-funded care, so it is important that you tell them which service you want.
At the same time, state-provided treatment in many EU countries does not cover everything you would expect to receive without payment on the NHS. In France, for example, you have to pay around 25 per cent of hospital fees and 30 per cent of doctors' and dentists' fees, while in Switzerland, you have to meet half the costs of using an ambulance.
What’s covered by the EHIC?
The EHIC covers most of your medical care while abroad in the EU and the EEA.
- The card covers most medical care that becomes necessary during your holiday because of either accident or illness.
- It gives you access to free or reduced cost treatment, but only from state-funded healthcare providers, which can sometimes be difficult to access.
- With an EHIC you will receive the same treatment as a resident of the country you're visiting. This might mean that you have to pay part of your medical bills, though you may be able to seek reimbursement afterwards.
- It does cover necessary treatment of chronic or pre-existing conditions.
- It covers routine maternity care – provided you haven’t travelled specifically to give birth.
- The provision of oxygen, renal dialysis and routine medical care are all covered by the EHIC.
What isn't covered by the EHIC?
The EHIC isn’t a substitute for adequate holiday insurance and some treatments and emergency rescue services are not covered.
- The EHIC doesn’t cover any private healthcare costs – including transportation in private ambulances, which are sometimes used by state-funded hospitals abroad.
- It doesn’t cover the cost of repatriation if you need to be brought back to the UK because of a serious illness or accident.
- Holding an EHIC doesn’t entitle you to travel abroad specifically for medical treatment.
- You might not be able to use the card in some areas, as there might not be any state-funded healthcare facilities available.
- Other areas not covered by the EHIC but provided by private travel insurance include money, possessions, cancellations, personal liability, expenses for others travelling with you if you're kept in hospital and mountain rescue from ski slopes.
Using the EHIC
You will often be offered a choice between private and state-funded healthcare if you need treatment abroad, so if you want to avoid expensive medical bills make sure that you specifically ask for state-provided care – especially if your hotel or travel agent has made the arrangements for you, as they will often recommend a private clinic.
In some countries you will be asked to pay for your treatment up front. If this happens, try to apply for your refund before returning home. Check the NHS’s individual Country Guides for details of how to do this. Otherwise, contact the Overseas Healthcare Team on 0191 218 1999 on your return.
Some travel insurers now insist that you hold an EHIC and many will waive the excess if you have one – saving you up to £75 in excess fees.
Applying for your EHIC
The card is available free of charge and is valid for up to five years. You can apply for your EHIC online, over the phone by calling 0845 606 2030 or by post using an application form from your local Post Office.
The EHIC doesn’t hold any electronic or clinical data – just your name, date of birth and an identification number – and will entitle you to the same benefits as the E111. However, unlike the old E111 forms, an individual card is required for every member of your family.
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