If you currently reside in an EU or EEA country, or in Switzerland, chances are you have heard of the EHIC. Otherwise known as the European Health Insurance Card, it is a card that most Europeans currently hold. If you do not hold one yourself, you may still be wondering what it is, how you apply for it and if you actually need it?

What is the EHIC and do you need it? — You only need a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) if you plan to travel outside the country you reside in. This is because the EHIC is a health insurance card that allows you to access government-run healthcare systems in all EU countries, plus the countries in the EEA and in Switzerland.

Without the EHIC, if you travel outside your country of residence and then have an accident or other medical problems, you will not be covered for the cost of the treatment you will need. This is why it is recommended everyone apply for an EHIC.

That way they are ready to travel outside their own country of residence, at least as far as access to universal healthcare is concerned.

How do you apply for an EHIC? — While there are online companies that offer to help you apply for the EHIC for a small fee as well as EHIC card renewal, these companies are not actually needed.

This is because applying for the EHIC through a governmental website is simple and completely free. Just search for the governmental website pertaining to the country you currently reside in and complete the application form you will find there. That will be processed, and then your new EHIC card mailed to you within a few days. You are then able to travel outside your country of residence, secure in the knowledge if you have any medical issues they will be taken care of at no cost to you.

Does having an EHIC cover you for all medical eventualities? — While traveling outside your country with the EHIC will cover you for many medical eventualities, it will not cover you for all of them.

This is because an EHIC does not cover you for any medical treatment you receive at a privately run hospital or medical facility. It also would not cover you if you were to go skiing, have an accident and need the services of a mountain rescue organization to carry you off the mountainside.

In the latter case, the only thing you would be covered for would be any medical care you were to receive in a state-run medical facility as a result of the skiing accident. A helicopter rescue, for instance, would have to be paid for by you.

The main reason why it is recommended you always buy additional travel insurance when you travel outside your country of residence, however, is due to the EHIC not covering you for a flight back to your home country if you are injured and need medical transportation.

In that case, any private health insurance policy you have would usually pick up the cost.