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When Things Go Wrong: Healthcare Abroad in the EU

Advice on Unplanned Treatment Abroad

When travelling to another EU country, be it on holiday, for business or to study,  should you fall ill or have an accident you have the same rights to healthcare as people insured in that country. In case of an emergency you can contact any of the emergency services using the free of charge European emergency number “112”, available throughout the EU.

You have the right to receive medical treatment in that country and to have your home country reimburse (part of) the costs. You also have the right to be informed about the treatment options, about how quality and safety is ensured, and whether a particular provider is legally entitled to offer services.

Prescriptions issued by a doctor in your home country are also valid in all EU countries, although medicines may be unavailable or called something else depending on the country.

The European Health Insurance Card

The freely available European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) proves you are insured in an EU country. Without a card you will not be refused treatment but may be required to pay for it up front and claim reimbursement once back in your home country.

EU citizens and non-EU citizens legally residing in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland and who are covered by a state social security scheme are eligible for a card. Each member of a family travelling should have their own card.

Applying for the European Health Insurance Card

Some countries issue the card together with a national health card. In others you need to apply for it. It should never cost you anything and it should be provided by your health insurer prior to travelling. Contact your national health insurance provider to apply or get additional information.

Some rogue websites offer the card for a fee, you should never use them and instead contact your public health care provider directly.

Restrictions on the Use of the European Health Insurance Card

  • Non-EU nationals cannot use their European Health Insurance Card for medical treatment in Denmark
  • Croatian nationals cannot use their European Health Insurance Card in Switzerland.
  • The card will not help you with rescue and repatriation. If you require free transport back home if you fall seriously ill or suffer an incapacitating accident while visiting another EU country, you will need separate insurance cover.
  • The card does not cover you for private health care or health care costs for planned treatment in another EU country.
  • The card does not guarantee free services. Each country’s healthcare system is different and some services that cost you nothing at home might not be free in another country.

More valuable information about emergency medical care within the EU can be found on the Your Europe website.

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