Can I Use My EHIC if I Go Overseas Specifically to Receive Medical Treatment?

Medical emergencies do happen even to the person who believes he has adequately prepared for it. If there is one thing that can help ease the burden of such emergencies especially if you are traveling to a foreign land with slightly different healthcare systems, then that would be the European Health Insurance Card. This card allows you to obtain free or price-reduced medical treatments from the medical and health care facilities run and funded by the governments of each of the 28-member EU and the 4-member EFTA or European Free Trade Association. Thus, it does not provide coverage for care obtained from institutions or facilities that are privately-run. This is a very important thing to understand as there have been instances where tourists sought medical care from a private practitioner hoping they will be able to use their EHIC to cover the expenses only to learn that such treatments are not covered.

One very specific criterion for the use of EHIC overseas is that the purpose of the visit or the travel is not to seek medical or healthcare treatments which also includes giving birth. While medical tourism is a booming industry offering patients access to high quality specialist medical services while they enjoy the natural beauty of the host country, the expenses incurred are not covered by EHIC. Majority of these medical tourists require treatments for unnecessary conditions. For example, many patients purposely enter a particular country simply because it is well-known for its liposuction services, face lifts, laser surgeries, skin rejuvenation treatments, breast augmentation, and even facial recontouring.

These procedures are considered as optional treatments and as such are not covered by the European Health Insurance system which was designed primarily to provide fundamental essential and necessary medical care for anyone who has a valid EHIC so he doesn’t have to return home immediately, cutting short his vacation. To put it simply, if you visit Switzerland or any member country of the European Economic Area, seeking medical help should not be your purpose. If something goes wrong that will require emergency and necessary treatment, then you can use your EHIC and you will be protected against prohibitive costs.

However, if you have any pre-existing disease or health condition that requires regular or constant care, EHIC will cover this. For example, if you have cancer and will require regular chemotherapy sessions, this can still be covered by EHIC provided you pre-book your treatment well in advance. The same is true for people who may need a regular dose of high dose medical-grade oxygen therapy because of their pulmonary conditions as well as those with reduced renal functioning who may require weekly dialysis sessions. These treatments are covered by EHIC provided they have been coordinated well in advance with the host country’s healthcare services. It is also advisable to talk to your doctor to learn more on how you can effectively manage your health condition when you are overseas. Generally, however, it is highly recommended that you complement your EHIC with a comprehensive private insurance policy.

If you are pregnant or your partner is, and you require regular monitoring of the fetus inside your womb, then you are also entitled to receive such routine maternity or pregnancy care using your EHIC. If you have premature labor that requires emergency delivery, this will also be covered by EHIC. However, if you traveled to an EEA country or even Switzerland just so you can give birth to your child in this particular country, then EHIC will not be able to cover your care. It is for this reason that you must complement your EHIC with your own private comprehensive insurance so that whatever conditions or services are not covered by EHIC, your personal insurance policy can provide you with the right protection.

The European Health Insurance Card is an individual-based guarantee. This means that your child should also have a valid EHIC especially if he is going to travel with you overseas or will be traveling together with his friends or the rest of his class. If he falls ill, then he will be able to receive the treatment he needs before he comes home.

In a gist, you should not use your EHIC if you intend to seek medical treatment abroad. What you need is a comprehensive personal insurance policy. But if you’re purpose in visiting an EEA country is either business or leisure, then you can use your EHIC if you require medical assistance.

You can contact MyEHIC if you want to know more about what you can and cannot do with your EHIC.