Ashkan Ahmadi

What is the European Health Insurance Card and Who Needs It?

If you are from the EU, EEA, Switzerland or non-EU citizen but eligible, having the European Health Insurance Card is recommended. The process to get it is fairly simple and easy and it would give you access to urgent medical care.

This blog will explain what the card actually does, who can apply for it, and whether you need a private health insurance instead of the European Health Insurance Card.

What is the European Health Insurance Card?

The European Health Insurance Card

The European Health Insurance Card, or EHIC for short, is an individual card that allows its holder to get medical assistance during a temporary stay in any country within the European Union (Spain, for example), or the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway), and Switzerland.

The Spanish equivalent is the Tarjeta Sanitaria Europeo (TSE). The health insurance institution of the country where you are insured (the one that pays for your healthcare) will provide the card.

Applying for and obtaining the EHIC is free. You do not need to pay for the card.

What are the benefits of the EHIC?

You can get the same medical services as the residents of that country (the Spanish residents in Spain, for example) if you have the EHIC. For example, if you are French but you are living in Spain. You will have the same privileges as as a Spanish citizen if you have the European Health Insurance Card. If a Spanish citizen pays 10% of the total fee, you would pay the 10% of the fee as well. You get the idea.

In certain cases, you will have to pay a fixed amount or percentage of the healthcare expenses, in line with the conditions applicable to residents in the State to which you are travelling. These amounts are not reimbursable.

However, this doesn’t mean you will receive services free of charge and it is not the same as a travel insurance. The card covers primary care and urgent medical assistance like chronic diseases (cancer, asthma), or illnesses and accidents. If you have a crash while skiing, this card would not function as travel insurance.

The European Health Insurance Card simply guarantees the same privileges as a resident of that country to its holder in case of an emergency.

Who can get the EHIC?

You can get the European Health Insurance Card if:

  • You are an EU citizen
  • You are a citizen of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland
  • You are a non-EU citizen covered by the public social security schema

What is not included or covered in the EHIC?

  • The EHIC is not a travel insurance. If you are traveling for fun or going to do sports, the EHIC would not cover the costs.
  • The EHIC will not cover your expenses if you are traveling primarily for medical assistance. If you are having health issues, the EHIC would not cover the costs if you simply look for treatment in another EU country. You will need a public or private health insurance for that.
  • The EHIC does not guarantee free services. It only guarantees the same privileges as the residents of that country.
  • the EHIC does not cover repatriation.
  • Each country has its own health system and the EHIC does not guarantee the same treatment in every country.

The EHIC will partly cover your medical expenses by social security but keep in mind that not all your expenses would be covered or reimbursed since the European Health Insurance Card is not sufficient to cover your health costs abroad. This is why it’s recommended to have the EHIC but also an international student health insurance which has more extensive reimbursement rates. See below for our top recommended international student health insurance.

Where can I use the EHIC?

You can use the EHIC in the following countries:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom*.

* According to this BBC article, UK citizens are eligible for the European Health Insurance Card until the end of 2020. Starting from 2021, they will no longer be eligible.

How can I apply for the EHIC?

You should apply for the card from the country where you’re registered as a resident. If you are an ex-pat resident in Spain (i.e. you have a residence permit), you can apply for the Tarjeta Sanitaria Europea (TSE).

Visit the official Social Security website and follow the instructions (available in English). This blog covers the very basics of the Spanish healthcare system. Stay tuned for more detailed blogs about more specific aspects of the system.

Private Insurance (Obligatory for Student Visa)

If you are applying for a student visa from outside the EU, EEA or Switzerland, it’s necessary to get private health insurance. This is mostly one of the requirements for getting the student visa. According to the Spanish regulations for international students, the student’s health insurance provider must cover a minimum of 30,000 euros.

If you are looking for a private health insurance provider to get the Spanish student visa, or renew your NIE, or simply have an affordable and robust health insurance, we definitely recommend Sanitas.

Studentfy is partners with Sanitas offering a complete international health insurance package. Here are some of the benefits of the Studentfy health insurance package in partnership with Sanitas:

  • A complete package allowing you to get the Spanish student visa or to renew your NIE
  • No co-payments which is required by all embassies for giving you a student visa
  • Dental coverage
  • Consultations and access to specialists like gynecologists
  • 24/7 medical service available on the phone
  • Access to thousands of specialists and health centers
  • Access to all diagnostic tests like ultrasound scans and x-rays
  • Discount on the monthly fee for all Studentfy Premium members

For more information, check out the Sanitas Health Insurance page to read more about the coverage and to apply for the insurance.

Summary

In short, the European Health Insurance Card is only for the European Union, EEA, and Swiss citizens (also, non-EU as long as you are eligible). It gives you the right to receive the same benefits as the residents of the country where you are temporarily living in. It does not substitute a full health insurance plan.

A private health insurance gives you access to better facilities, higher reimbursement rates, and it is the only acceptable type of insurance for student visas.

The best case is to have the EHIC and a private insurance to make sure you will be able to receive quality services and not end up with a huge medical bill.

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