What is the European Health Insurance Card?

If you’re travelling to the EU, you’ll need to carry a European Health Insurance Card with you. Here’s everything you need to know about the EHIC.

What is it?

Known as the EHIC, it’s a free healthcare card available to Irish residents and EU citizens living in Ireland.

If you’re travelling to the EU or European Economic Area (EEA), you should take it with you in case you become unwell or have an accident and need medical attention.

How to use the card

If you need medical care while you’re away, you must show your EHIC to the nearest public medical centre or hospital. You can expect to get the same treatment and care as local residents and on the same terms.

If public healthcare is free in the country you’re visiting you won’t pay anything, but if there’s a charge for medical services, you’ll be charged too.

Here’s more information about how to use your EHIC in each country and any costs involved.

What does it cover?

Here’s a summary of what the EHIC does and doesn’t cover you for:

  • Free or reduced cost state healthcare in any of the EU and EEA countries
  • Pre-existing medical conditions
  • Routine maternity care - as long as you’re not going there to give birth
  • A temporary stay up to three months*
  • Private healthcare or costs for something like mountain rescue
  • Ongoing or permanent healthcare
  • Medical expenses, if your reason for going abroad is to have treatment
  • The cost to fly you back to Ireland

*If you’re a student studying abroad, you’ll be covered for up to an academic year.

Do you still need travel insurance?

Yes, it’s essential you get travel insurance as well as an EHIC or you won’t be covered for things like cancellation and lost or stolen luggage.

Your EHIC just covers medical costs in the EU but travel insurance can include lots of extras to suit your trip such as winter sports cover. Find out more about why you need travel insurance.

How to apply for the EHIC

You can either apply:

The EHIC is completely free. Never use a website that tries to charge you.

You’ll be asked for personal details like your:

  • Name
  • Gender
  • Date of birth
  • PPSN (Personal Public Service Number)
  • Address

Each member of your family needs an EHIC when they travel within the EU. You can apply for them in person, by post, or online if you have a medical or drug payment scheme card.

European Health Insurance Card FAQs

Do I need an EHIC if I’m travelling to the UK?

If you’re planning a trip to the UK, you don’t currently need an EHIC. Identification such as your passport or driving licence and PPSN is enough to show you’re an Irish resident.

Ireland and the UK have a health agreement under the Common Travel Area. It gives Irish and British citizens who live, work or visit access to each other’s healthcare.

How do I apply for an EHIC if I don’t have a medical or drug payment scheme card?

You can only get your EHIC by applying in person at your local health office, or by post.

How do I renew my EHIC?

Go to the HSE website, enter your existing EHIC number and PPSN to renew. Or you can visit your local health office.

How long does it take to get the card?

It takes ten working days and will be posted to you.

What happens if I lose my EHIC?

You’ll need to visit your local health office to get a replacement as you can’t apply online for one.

What happens if I need an EHIC urgently?

If you need an EHIC sooner than the usual ten working days, you can apply for a temporary replacement card in person at your local health office.

What happens if my address has changed since applying for my EHIC?

If your address has changed since getting your EHIC, you’ll need to contact your local health office to process your renewal.

Why do I need an EHIC if the country I’m visiting charges for healthcare?

Having an EHIC means you’ll get state healthcare for free or at the same rate as local residents. Without an EHIC you’ll pay considerably more and may have to go private.

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