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The EHIC: a guide

Find out why you should keep this card with you during your trip abroad.

Having a valid EHIC can bring peace of mind that you’ll get access medical care in hospitals or doctors’ surgeries abroad on the same terms as a local.

Read on to find out why the EHIC is useful to have in place, and why it shouldn’t be seen as a swap for travel cover.

What is the EHIC?

EHIC stands for the European Health Insurance Card. It typically lets travellers get state-delivered healthcare during a trip to any EU country, plus a handful of others including the UK. The EHIC, which is free, is valid for five years.

How does it work?

If you carry the EHIC, you can receive free or discounted treatment, regardless of the severity of your condition, until you return to Ireland. This includes a sudden accident or illness as well as pre-existing conditions. It’ll also cover standard maternity care. You can add any children you need covered on to your application.

While you’re on holiday, it’s important to keep your card with you at all times in case you need to access emergency medical care.

Where is the EHIC valid?

The EHIC is valid in most countries in the European Economic Area (EEA).

Each of these countries listed will have their own rules about how you can access and receive medical treatment as a visitor.

Is the EHIC a replacement for travel insurance?

No; travel insurance is far more comprehensive than the EHIC. You should make sure you have both in place as soon as you book your holiday. Some travel insurers will insist that you have an EHIC, and they’ll waive any excess payment where applicable.

What isn’t included with the EHIC?

The EHIC will not cover you if you’re going to another country specifically to get treatment from the country you’re visiting. So, you won’t be covered for any pre-existing condition. A pre-existing condition is any illness or ailment which you had either before – or at the time of taking out – your EHIC.

There are a range of other standard exclusions with the EHIC. These include:

  • Cruises. Always check with your holiday provider if you’re unsure whether you’ll be covered or not.
  • Trip delays. You won’t be able to claim for cancellations either
  • Theft or loss. If you’re the victim of theft, or you lose your luggage, travel insurance can help
  • Extra costs. The EHIC covers regular treatment, but it won’t pay for visits from family members and accommodation if you get seriously ill.
  • Repatriation. You could face a very high medical bill if you need to be flown back to Ireland.

How to apply

If you’re an Irish citizen, or an EU citizen living in Ireland, you can apply for an EHIC:

  • In person at your local health office
  • By post
  • Online – but only if you already have a medical card or drug payment scheme card

You will need to show proof of your address in Ireland. The card will be sent you via post in around 10 working days.

Frequently asked questions

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