European Health Insurance Card: All the facts

South Munster Citizens Information gives the lowdown on the European Health Insurance Card - useful to those planning to travel or simply booking a holiday abroad in Europe this year
European Health Insurance Card: All the facts

The EHIC covers free or reduced cost public healthcare in any of the EU and EEA countries

WHEN travelling abroad, we should be prepared for all eventualities.

It is very important, if you are holidaying in another EU country, that you bring your European Health Insurance Card in case you or your family need to access medical care.

What is the European Health Insurance Card?

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows you to access public healthcare in another EU/EEA state for free or at a reduced rate. You can use it when you are travelling abroad or when you are staying temporarily in another EU State.

It is recommended that you always carry your EHIC when you are abroad. An EHIC does not replace travel insurance.

How long does the card last?

It last for up to four years. At the end of that period you will need to renew your card. You can renew it online

Can I get a European Health Insurance Card?

You can only apply for an European Health Insurance Card if you live in Ireland or if you live in another European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA) member state, or Switzerland.

If you live in Ireland but you are linked to another EU/EEA State’s Social Security System, contact the health authorities in that country for more information. If you live in Northern Ireland but are employed in Ireland, you can get an Irish-issued EHIC.

Does the card cover the whole family?

Each family member needs their own card. You can apply for the whole family on one application form.

Where can I use it?

You can use your European Health Insurance Card in any European Union or European Economic Area (EEA) country and in Switzerland. Currently, the EEA comprises the 27 member states of the European Union together with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. As Andorra and Monaco are not part of the EU or EEA, your EHIC is not accepted there. Likewise if you are travelling outside the EU/EEA. In both cases you should get private health insurance instead.

Does it apply in the UK?

If you are an Irish citizen, you have access to healthcare under the Common Travel Area while visiting the UK. However, other EU citizens should continue to use the EHIC, which is still accepted in the UK.

What does the EHIC cover?

It covers free or reduced cost public healthcare in any of the EU and EEA countries, a temporary stay of up to three months, pre-existing medical conditions, routine maternity care - as long as you’re not going there to give birth. 

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

It does not cover private healthcare, the cost to fly you back to Ireland, ongoing or permanent healthcare or medical expenses if your reason for going abroad is to have treatment.

Will I have to pay anything for healthcare with my EHIC?

In some EU member states you may have to make some payment towards the cost of the services you receive, just as people in that state do. This is called a ‘patient co-payment’ or ‘patient share’. You will not receive a re-fund for this or for private healthcare.

How can I get a refund from the HSE if I paid for healthcare while abroad?

You may be able to get a refund if you had to pay because you did not have your EHIC card with you or the healthcare providers charged you by mistake.

Apply for a refund by email. Send your receipts to The HSE will send an E126 form to the health authorities in the other state to find out if you used a public health service and how much of a refund is due When the HSE receive the completed E126 form from the other state, the HSE can see if a refund is due to you or not.

What if I don’t have my EHIC before I travel?

If you don’t have your European Health Insurance Card for any reason, you can get a Temporary Replacement Certificate. This gives you the same entitlement as the Card, but for a shorter period. You can apply online for this Certificate, in-person or by post to your Local Health Office. You can only receive a Temporary Replacement Certificate for yourself.

How much does a European Health Insurance Card cost?

There is no fee for the European Health Insurance Card or for a Temporary Replacement Certificate. Renewing a European Health Insurance Card is also free.

How do I apply?

You complete an application form and send the completed form to your Local Health Office. You can download the form or pick one up from your local Citizens Information Centre. If you have a medical card or drug payment scheme card you can apply on-line.

If you already had an EHIC but it has expired, you can renew it online if you have your old EHIC number and your PPS number, provided that your address has not changed.

Telephone lines for South Munster Information in Cork City are monitored from 10am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. In addition, the Cork City Centre CIC in Cornmarket Street is open to the public from 10am to 12.30pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays, while the Blackpool CIC is open to the public each morning from 10am to 1pm, Monday to Friday.

Full details for all Citizens Information Centres and their opening times are available on our website.

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