How do I get another EHIC if mine has expired?

EHIC cover is issued for a period of five years only, and once your card has passed its expiry date, you won’t be able to use it any more. Luckily, it’s easy to request a renewal. Simply log into the website using the ID and password you were given when you first registered, and look for the option to apply for a renewal. At the same time, you should have the option to update any details which have changed since the last time you applied.

If you’re overseas, fall ill and discover that your EHIC has expired then all is not lost. If your circumstances have not changed and you are still entitled to cover, call the NHS overseas healthcare helpline and ask for them to issue a Provisional Replacement Service (PRC) which will be sent out immediately to the hospital overseas and will cover costs until you return.

How do I apply for an EHIC family card?

The simple answer to this is that you can’t. Unlike its predecessor of E111 and most travel insurance policies, EHIC is designed for individuals only. That means you’ll have to organise different EHIC cover for each member of the family, including babies and toddlers – children can’t claim for treatment on a parent’s card.

Although you can’t apply for a family card or a single piece of paper to cover everyone, one parent can do the application for everyone. Whoever is making the application has to fill in names, dates of birth and addresses for all members of the family. One of the key pieces of information needed is a National Insurance number. As these aren’t issued to children under the age of 16, parents will have to complete their own details instead. All applications can be submitted together and once approved, the cards will be sent to your home address in the post.

What isn’t covered by my EHIC?

EHIC is seen by some as a substitute for travel insurance, but it really isn’t. EHIC is purely about state healthcare – it’s a reciprocal agreement between 32 different countries which allows citizens to get medical care in any of the countries at minimal cost. That doesn’t mean you’ll get free treatment, as if fees apply for locals, you’ll have to pay them too. EHIC won’t ever pick up the tab if you’re treated in a private hospital, or in a private room in a state hospital, although your travel insurance might.

EHIC is designed for unforeseen medical expenses, or to cover people with pre-existing conditions who need regular treatment. EHIC won’t cover you if your only reason for going overseas is to seek treatment with a specific hospital or doctor. It also doesn’t cover pregnant women who want to be in a certain country to give birth.

How is EHIC different from E111?

If you’ve still got an old E111 form which you pack each year when you head off on holiday, it will probably come as a bit of shock to find that it’s not valid any more. E111 was replaced in 2004 by EHIC, which has many advantages over the old system.

For a start, EHIC is individual cover. Everyone gets their own card rather than the whole family being covered on one form. That makes life a lot easier if a child’s school trip coincides with another family member needing to go overseas too. EHIC is similar in a lot of ways too in that it still gives you access to state healthcare overseas on the same terms as the locals. That doesn’t mean you will be treated free, as every country’s healthcare system is different. Apply for your EHIC online, get cards for the whole family, and stick that old E111 in the recycling bin.

Do I need a separate EHIC for each country?

No, EHIC is designed to be accepted in every of the 32 countries which are part of the scheme. All of the EHIC cards issued by the separate governments are similar in appearance, and one card works everywhere. However, not every European country is a member of the EEA group, so it’s always wise to double check that the countries you are intending travelling through are included under EHIC.

EHIC can also be used when you’re on a road trip or interrail holiday through several European countries. It’s not a substitute for travel insurance, and you should make sure you’re properly covered for all the other eventualities which might befall you on this sort of holiday. The only exception to this are cruise holidays, which are one of the few exceptions to EHIC and require travel insurance to cover health and other risks.

What do I do if my EHIC has been stolen?

Pickpocketing and bag snatching is one of the most common crimes which affect tourists overseas, and as well as being distressing, it’s extremely inconvenient. If one of the pieces of documentation you’ve lost is your EHIC, you have a couple of options.

Firstly, if you’re due to return home shortly, it might be better to wait until you’re back in the UK. Then you can log into the website you used to order your card in the first place to report it stolen and ask for a new one, or call the NHS helpline for guidance. If you need to get medical attention before you get home, then you can call the helpline and ask for a Provisional Replacement Certificate (PRC). These are sent direct to the hospital or doctor where you’re being treated, and will cover you until you return to the UK.

Will I still get free prescriptions using EHIC?

If you qualify for free prescriptions in the UK, there is no guarantee that you will have the same entitlement overseas. Every one of the 32 countries which are part of the EHIC system have their own rules and you will be charged according to local rules. Some countries give free prescriptions for children, others have a system of charging depending on the type of illness the prescription is for.

There are a few things you can do to minimise prescription costs while overseas. Firstly, make sure you take enough prescription medication with you when you travel. Secondly, if you do fall ill while you’re away speak to a pharmacist rather than heading for the GP as you may be able to get what you need over the counter. If you do have to see a doctor for a prescription, ask the pharmacist about costs and always ask for a receipt.

I’ve been asked to pay using my EHIC, can I get my money back?

It can come as quite a shock to be asked to pay when you see a GP or have to go to hospital overseas, especially if you were under the impression that your EHIC card gave you free healthcare. Unfortunately, if you’ve been asked to make contributions or co-payments towards your treatment in a state hospital you won’t be able to claim for a refund.

Contributions towards treatment are generally low, just a few euros. Many systems also put a cap on the total amount you’ll be asked to pay towards your treatment. If you are presented with a very hefty bill, the chances are that you’re being treated privately. Your travel insurance may reimburse costs associated with private medical care, but it’s not covered under EHIC. If you are unclear what you are being charged and why, don’t be afraid to ask the staff for an invoice or an explanation.

Where can I get an EHIC application form?

There are a few options for getting an EHIC form. The easiest and quickest method is by using the internet. Log on to the NHS website where you will find everything you need to apply for EHIC for you, and for your family members if appropriate. If you prefer, choose one of the third party websites which offer a service which goes beyond the basic EHIC application with features such as check and send, email assistance or reminders when your EHIC is about to expire. You can also print a form off the government website to complete by hand and send off in the mail. If you have no access to the internet, then you can call the NHS Overseas Healthcare helpline during office hours, and ask for one to be sent to you in the post. EHIC forms can’t be picked up from the Post Office or GP surgery in the way that E111 forms could.

How do I renew my EHIC?

EHIC has a validity of 5 years, and if you forget to renew it when it expires, you’ll no longer be covered. Every EHIC has the expiry date printed on it, but you will receive no other warning that your EHIC is about to expire in many cases. If you’ve applied for your EHIC with a site other than the NHS one, the website might email you a reminder that it’s time to renew.

When you apply online, you’re given a login ID and password to allow you to log back in and update any details whish have changed. You should also be able to ask for new cards to be sent out. If you can’t remember your login details or applied in some other way, give the NHS helpline a call, explain the situation and they can take you through the process of applying for a renewal over the phone.