The European Health Insurance Card and Free Healthcare

No matter what sort of holiday you’re planning to take this year, whether you just want to relax and soak up the sun, explore new places or an adrenaline junkie looking for the next big thing, it is always important to know about healthcare. Unfortunately, we can never predict when we might fall ill, and even the most careful of people have accidents on their holidays. Healthcare systems vary massively in Europe, this applies to both cost and level of care. Often, we can take for granted the NHS in the UK, and assume we are entitled to the same care throughout Europe, but this is not the case.

It is a common misconception that the European Health Insurance Card entitles the holder to free healthcare. This is not the case. The EHIC actually entitles the card holder to be treated under the same care as a citizen of the country in which they are visiting. Since healthcare systems vary so widely, entitlements will vary too. Owning an EHIC will certainly mean however, you won’t be hit with any expensive, upfront medical costs, so there is always a benefit to having one.

It’s always a great idea to do some research on your holiday destinations before you travel, just to make yourself aware of what the EHIC will entitle you to and where your nearest medical centre will be. To give you a helping hand, we have compiled a list of which European countries provide free medical care just like in the UK:

Denmark: A consultation with a state registered doctor will be available to anyone holding an EHIC. If you don’t have your card present with you at the time, unfortunately you will have to pay for this. Not to worry too much though, you can claim back the costs if this happened. Try and always keep it on your person though to avoid any complications.

Southern Ireland: In the event of needing healthcare urgently, it is always advised to go straight to the A&E department of any state hospital for treatment. This will be provided free with an EHIC.

Italy: The SSN is the Italian medical system and is basically the equivalent to the NHS here in the UK. Therefore, anyone holding a valid EHIC can be seen and treated by any doctor registered with the SSN free of charge.

Malta: Any EHIC holder will be entitled to healthcare free from any doctor in a public health centre. On top of that, should any medication be required, this will be provided for the first three days of treatment.

Lithuania: In Lithuania they have a free public healthcare system, which you too would be entitled to, keep in mind that the EHIC as well as your passport will need to be presented before any treatment will be given.

Austria: Austrian doctors can treat you free of charge but only if they are contracted to a regional health insurance office. It is very important to clarify this first because if the doctor is not contracted, you will be treated as a private patient, even with the EHIC and this can become very expensive.

Portugal: when your card is shown, any state-run centre will provide free healthcare.

The Netherlands: Free healthcare will be provided in The Netherlands to EHIC holders, should emergency medical care be needed. Again, it is important to establish that the doctor giving treatment is in the AGIS scheme, so that you aren’t treated as a private patient.

An application for a free European Health Insurance Card can be made directly at the official Government website Alternatively, you can apply at for their additional services.

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